Journal of my COVID-19 Plague Year

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.

Pandemic progress and Not

I spend so much time in front of my computers now I find it harder and harder to spend *even more* time in front of it to blog or, for that matter, to play World of Warcraft. But here goes.

Data for LA County, January 31, 2021.

LA County is finally seeing its cases drop. Deaths should turn down next week–there’s a consistent 3 week lag between cases and deaths. Last week Newsom released the state-wide stay-home order and we’re back under the 4 tier system. Mammoth reopened rentals instantly. Our Mammoth place booked for all of February already.

Vaccination rates were improving last week finally. The state overthought the ethical priorities and underthought the logistics of large-scale distribution, IMHO. And had no help from the Feds.

From the LA County vaccination dashboard.

Meanwhile the MAGAt fuckwits and antivaxxers have started trying to shut down the vaccination sites. LAPD let them shut down the big Dodger Stadium site over the weekend. Given the willingness of LAPD to brutalize Black Lives Matter protesters just a few months ago. . .I was pissed. We watched John Ford’s Grapes of Wrath last week. In the movie the police and sheriffs were part of the growers’ system of oppression. Nothing’s changed in nearly a century.

https://twitter.com/ErikMConway/status/1355694578460856322?s=20

We had to cancel last week’s Mammoth trip to do the soil sampling in Swall Meadows due to snow–3 feet in Swall Meadows, 10 feet on the mountain. Courtney the Lost Girl went with friends and the mountain was a mob scene. Hour long lift lines, etc. Glad I missed it. We’ll leave this Wednesday and do the sampling on the new property Friday, Feb. 5. Escrow closes on the 11th so we’re cutting it a bit tight but that’s life.

My 3D printer has stopped working. It can’t find the 3rd calibration point (back right). It finds the first two no problem, but it sees nothing on the 3rd. It’s. . .bizarre. I’ve no idea what to do.

The Pronterface portrait of calibration point #3. Nothing where a target should be even though the probe is passing directly over the target. . .

The Bernie meme went on and on and on. . .here’s one last one. Jamie Lee Curtis tweeted it so I guess it’s ok to put here! His staff set up a merch store instantly and donated the profits to a Vermont charity. Good on them.

Inauguration Day

And nothing bad happened. The Orange Emperor had already fled with the kids to Mar a Lago by the time I had Second Coffee. His followers stayed home. Pence showed up and did the usual presidential duties. Lady Gaga did the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez did This Land is Your Land.

Sen Roy Blunt, of all people, spoke for the GOP and did a nice speech on the nation as work in progress. The whole thing was set up for a unity theme. I but that doesn’t last long.

Biden’s speech was on that and also on the importance of facts and lies. Shared reality, i didn’t hear him say.

Apparently there were 25,000 National Guard soldiers in DC today. Nobody was taking any chances with the MAGA terrorists.

Don the Con pardoned dozens of GOP criminals (and a Democratic one, too) on his way out the door.

I should note that the #TrumpDeathToll reached nearly 406,000 today. More than our World War 2 dead, for nothing but a a fake billionaire’s ego.

I’m sure Comrade Bernie didn’t mean it. . .but he launched a thousand memes at the inaugural.

Former presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) sits in the bleachers on Capitol Hill before Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

2nd Impeachment Day

Like 2nd breakfast, but with enormous amounts of lying. Here’s the tally. 197 Republicans voted in favor of insurrection–this country is f*cked. I’m old enough to remember when Republicans voted to impeach over a blow job.

Photos from the Capitol are amazing/horrible. Apparently the Congressional leadership doesn’t trust the Capital Police any more, so they’ve got National Guard units sleeping on the floor in the building.

The other good news today was that a bunch of major companies are suspending donations to the GOP. WalMart in particular won’t donate to Kevin McCarthy’s Sedition Caucus.

More Ku Klux Koup

Starting to seem a whole lot like an organized effort with police complicity. Trying to murder the vice president sure sounds like a Koup effort.

Some amazing reporting this weekend too. WarPost on the Capitol Police and long-delayed response. Buzzfeed’s got the African-American police angle. The WarPost is also on the case of the Koup’s GOP sympathizers. Silence is complicity, after all. The LA Times has finally noticed the far right violence in California, too. Basically all the major social media sites have been aggressively taking down pro-Koup accounts, including the Orange Emperor’s. Amazon has unfriended Parler, most disastrously for the Koupsters.

The Governator put out a nice video on his family’s history in Austria. I don’t think he’s getting invited to RNC lunches any more.

I should mention that the pandemic’s still getting worse. Vaccine rollout so far is a botch.

The Ku Klux Koup

The Times of India was on fire today. Although it was so shittly done. . .maybe the Keystone Koup is better?

The inaction of the Capitol Police was by design. There’s statistics. The Trump Crime Family watched the attack and laughed. . .and released a video!

Pretty clear that if there’s not a resignation by Monday, the House will vote to impeach. The FBI’s already arresting the insurrectionists–they very conveniently posted to social media about it and there’s trackers all over Washington.

Soon to be chair of the Senate Budget Committee Sanders gets this right:

Twitter FINALLY banned Don the Con. His followers were/are starting to plan new attacks on Washington and on state capitals for the 17th and 20th of January, and apparently @jack finally had enough. Apple and Google both threatened to take down Parler, a new-ish go-to site for the far right. But Parler’s already hard down–makes me wonder if the Feds had them shut down. But we’ll know soon enough.

Worth noting that Clarence Thomas’ wife was part of the sedition chorus.

Today’s the day. . .

That the fascists attempted their coup against the United States. I’m both not surprised and furious. The president should be impeached tonight.

https://www.nytimes.com/

Congress resumed session about 6 hours after the invasion. We quit watching the TV as the Congress was still considering the bogus “objections” to Pennsylvania’s vote count.

Last day of 2020

I’m neglecting this blog again because. . .life.

The pandemic news is still mostly bad. It’s out of control in most of the US and our lame duck emperor is golfing. Los Angeles County has shut down dining except for takeout and reduced store capacity, but that has (so far) made no difference. The police are finally shutting down underground clubs and parties and stuff but that’s far too late. There’s intentional superspreading events being held (a “Christian” singer has an unmasked concert and protest going on Skid Row, apparently hoping to kill a lot of the homeless population). San Bernadino County has been the worst in the state. LA County has required quarantine for everyone entering the county now–I guess that means our next Mammoth trip will trigger that on return. Here’s the current stats:

https://www.latimes.com/projects/california-coronavirus-cases-tracking-outbreak/

Two vaccines, one from Pfizer and one from Moderna, both using new mRNA methods, started distribution two weeks ago. Turns out the Drumpf administration’s “plan” for distribution was to have the states figure it out. Because Moscow Mitch McConnell prevented another COVID relief bill until this past weekend (signed on 27 December, after benefits had expired), the states had no money for planning distribution or establishing infrastructure. The new law contains $8 billion for this, which is not enough. Larger point being that current vaccination rate is about 1 million per week. At that rate, everyone’s vaccinated in about 6 years. My personal, in-my-head-only, timeline was I might be vaccinated in May. Sure looks like that was unusual optimism.

The God-King has one more hail mary effort in play to overturn the election, when the certification vote is taken in Congress on 6 January. Nobody believes it will work, but it will force the GOP to take a vote they don’t want to. Fuck ’em.

There’s a new, more virulant strain circulating now, apparently. First sequenced in Britain. Would explain why things are so much worse.

Here at home, we’ve been reorganizing and renovating. We finally got the StepKid out of the house (again). He moved to Mammoth. We sold him The Mate’s Truckosaur, so we’re a one-car family. (Go Tesla). I’ve taken over his bedroom and made it my office. New desk installed. New shelves hopefully arrive today. My old office is now guest bedroom. Since we no longer actually go to work, The Mate converted the southwest living room into her office.

Another oddity of the pandemic year is that The Mate has turned against her house. She used to love this place and now wants to leave–i’m wondering if this is just because we can’t leave. She used to travel crazily and this was the refuge; now it’s a trap. I’m not having the same response–when I was in the old office, which is dark and tiny on the north side of the house, I felt trapped. This ex-bedroom is on the east end of the north side and has much better light–so I’m fine now. I miss the folks at work, so I do want to go back, but otherwise I don’t mind the WFH at all.

In any case, we’re buying a lot in Swall Meadows, California. 2 acres, fantastic views east and south, never been built on. Offer accepted this week, so now we’re working on getting a septic system evaluation done. The site has community water and power, including fire hydrants, but not sewage. The Paradise fire burned through five years ago, and destroyed 39 houses there. Most likely, we’ll build in Insulated Concrete Forms so the house is less vulnerable to fire.

I’ve always wanted to build a passive solar house, and I guess this is my chance. It won’t be completely passive. The lot is at 6000 feet in the Sierras, so it’s gonna be cold and need additional heat. But the tools available now should make possible a super-efficient, all electric house that’s actually comfortable. Most likely it’ll be heated floors via heat-pump supplied hydronics for whatever direct solar heating of the slab doesn’t provide. Turns out that air-water heat pumps can deliver heating, cooling, and hot water–big change from the 70s.

Everyone in my extended circle talks about how awful 2020 was. It’s true that the year has been catastrophic for the nation, and for society. It’s really exposed how corrupt and incompetent our leadership is–federal, state, and local. I’ve been horrified at how willing the GOP (and to be fair, many others who aren’t really political) to let mass death happen, and even to actively facilitate it. We’re a failed state, and simply can’t admit it to ourselves.

I started this blog, though, because it’s all been very surreal to me. As The Mate said to me earlier today, it hasn’t been bad *for us*. We still have jobs, work every day, etc. It sucks to not be able to have dinner with friends, but. . .first world problem. We’ll all live (and that’s the point). Many others we know are not so fortunate. We know intellectually that things are bad, but they don’t *feel* bad, mostly.

Anyway, the dumpster fire year of 2020 hasn’t left me unscarred (despite the above). I still have my gall bladder surgery scars from September, and just yesterday got a diagnosis for a basal cell carcinoma on my head. So i get scalp surgery next month. What fun.

https://giphy.com/gifs/trump-dumpster-fire-golfs-Qy7akYYOBxhVF2krsQ

Better luck to us all next year.