Re-re-opening a bit late

I meant to write a post on California’s re-re-opening day, June 15, and I collected a bunch of images, and then I didn’t write the post. I just want to say that while the state’s re-opened, and things are starting to feel normal, I’m not allowed back at work and won’t be until sometime in September. It’s a NASA thing. And I also need to note that while California’s passing 70% vaccinated, much of the Old Confederacy is sub-40%, so the pandemic’s not even done in the US, let alone the rest of the world.

I still haven’t finished making the pandemic house blog. We decided to redesign to reduce the amount of dirt-and-rock moving by attaching the garage and moving the house to the West setback line. Design’s not fully re-integrated yet.

Threadbare Posting

It’s been over a month since the last post. Unfortunately–to a degree, anyway!–completion of vaccination led straight back to insane travel schedules. We did a twice-postponed wedding in Cincinnati, then drove 15 hours to New Hampshire to visit my parents. Then we flew back to California. . .and I flew back to New Hampshire less than a week later. I came back to help get my father some in-home care. He’s not aging well. I’ll return to Cali next week.

The pandemic collapse in Los Angeles County has been breathtaking. Half the state’s now at least partly vaccinated.

LA Times.

The CDC has lifted the mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people. Since we know the Trumpist anti-maskers are also anti-vaxxers, though, I expect we’ll see it continue to spread among them.

Unfortunately the vaccination rate is plunging, too, and not just in California.

The Mate finally bought herself a new truckosaur: a 2021 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. Another blow to my carbon footprint.

There’s not much news on the house-building front. We’ve finalized the concept and have been trying to get bids on the engineering. We’ve had good responses to the energy design requests; less good on the structure. Construction supply costs have been soaring, though–wood has more than tripled in price. So delay might be good!

My own modeling of the house shows very good performance. A 10 kw array should run everything, including powering the Tesla, according to the DOE’s Building Optimization model. Unless I’ve made a big mistake!

We’re planning our usual anniversary trip to Mammoth for the end of this month.

UPDATE: I can’t believe I didn’t blog about the first launch in 2021, on April 10th. Flew the Nike Smoke. There were only about a hundred people there.


Yesterday I got my second Pfizer dose at The Forum megapod. Very fast. We were in and out in 19 minutes. Arm is sore and some of my various aches and pains are worse than usual. I think Pfizer is a pain amplifier.

Planning on heading out to visit parents at the end of April. We’re all vaccinated now. I was actually the last one in the family.

I couldn’t face staring at this computer all day again so I spent the day doing chores and other puttering instead. I hope to still get Jed’s book out the door this week. I’m waiting on others now to finish.

Suddenly busy social life–brunch with David and Monique at the Ath yesterday morning; birthday dinner for the Mate on Tuesday evening at the Raymond; another birthday dinner for Sifling on Friday. All outdoors–we’re not willing to do indoor dining yet. A few more weeks maybe.

Running on Empty

Back on March 6th, I wanted to write about the ever-changing vaccination rules, but two weeks later this seems unimportant. The Biden administration has used the Defense Production Act to accelerate manufacturing HUGELY, and we’re back to having a backlog of doses vs capacity to inject them. Cali’s over 14 million first doses, and the infection rate here is still declining (though other states are not so well off).

Things feel over here, but it’s not. There’s still a possibility of another wave; lots of stuff is still very restricted (we’re in the Red tier, which means 25% capacity on indoor stuff, etc.) But it really does feel like the pandemic’s ending. We’ll see if it actually is.

I’ve been putting all my “free” time into finishing the two book manuscripts. I plan to get Jed’s electrical manuscript out on the 30th. I’ve got two more things to do on the Magic manuscript, but we’ve got the students doing all the notes. Hopefully we’ll get it out to the press at the end of April.

We’ve gotten the third iteration of plans for Area 52 this morning. I need to get the house blog going but I haven’t had time (and i find this web stuff infuriating anyway). But last trip up Lia found a good spot for conventional septic (right behind the garage, unfortunately), so that’s a big advance. Here’s what iteration 3 looks like. We’ll have the great room slightly expanded south, and an entrance/mudroom added on the west end.

My Huntington long-term fellows group held a Zoom reunion last week. It was very fun. Two babies born in the pandemic, and unfortunately two assaults on two of our Asian fellows. Anti-Asian violence is way up right now due to the horrid ex-president’s white supremacy. There was also a massacre of 8 people in a set of massage parlors in Georgia last week by a white guy. WTF is wrong with people. Anyway, I feel like I have to participate with this group more somehow.

I found a cool thing in No Man’s Sky last night. Hadn’t logged in for a month. It’s the grave of a great sea monster, supposedly.

Things changing fast now

LA County reaches the Red Tier tomorrow. ROC will resume launches in April. Vaccination delivery is soaring. . .it’s almost amazing.

We spent the weekend in Mammoth, drove back today. Found a good septic spot Friday, skiied Saturday, hauled back to ‘Dena today. Was a good weekend all around. Now I have way too much to do to make it through the next 3 weeks of March.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

Better luck to us all next year.

I’m so far behind. . .

I’ve been remiss in writing here. What has it been, two months? Spent my birthday a Marriott resort property in Orange County, near a place called Crystal Cove. We managed to ignore the election going on. It took about 3 days for enough county to be done to make clear that God King Trump had lost. Unfortunately, the GOP did well otherwise, which means Trumpian fascism is popular with the voters–just not Trump himself. So we’re going to get more fascism.

Not clear yet who will control the Senate next year. There’s a runoff in Georgia on Jan. 5.

Meanwhile, Trump and Guliani have been trying to get the courts, and certain states, to overturn the election. It hasn’t worked. There’s a devastating WaPo article on the effort.

But we’re not calling the effort an attempted coup. No siree. We don’t have those in Amerika.

In addition to organizing his failing coup attempt, Trump’s been tweeting and golfing. but the administration’s given up containing the pandemic. Cases, hospitalizations, etc., are exploding. Quadrupled in LA County since October. Lots of other places are worse. So this week “Stay Home orders” are back. I’m not expecting it to work. Another devastating LA Times article on the inconsistent rules and messaging is probably a good diagnosis why.

LA TImes, of course.

The new restrictions closed outdoor dining down, and also short term rentals. Essential travel only. But they left Mammoth Mountain open–just no food and no traveling to get there. Locals will be happy, I guess.

NY Times.

The Mate just wandered in and told me Chuck Yeager died.

At home I’ve been slowly moving offices, from the dark, dreary north-facing center room to Alexander’s old room. It’s much brighter. 🙂 He’s finally found a place in Mammoth and is clearing out of our condo up there. Thank heavens. I’m trying to get bookshelves built on the north wall. I’ve already built up a new sit/stand desk against the south wall and moved closets.

I completely forgot to write about the death of my old motherboard. Right around my birthday, the on-board power started failing. It wasn’t that old, and certainly not cheap–an ASUS ROG Maximus X WiFi. Shouldn’t have been failing so soon. I rebuilt with a Gigabyte Aorus instead. I’ve also replaced the 240mm CoolerMaster CPU cooler–it was super loud and annoying. After watching many review videos, I got an NZXT Kraken 360mm. SO MUCH QUIETER.

Arecibo collapsed. I should mention that. Have I mentioned that it’s been a shit year?

Mandalorian is back on and we’re enjoying it. We’ve also caught up on Star Trek: Discovery, which is all about trying to rebuild utopia. it’s a little preachy, even for me. Expanse I guess is back soon. . .I hope?

Shadowlands finally came out right before T-day. I meant to level my poor NE priest first but she wound up trapped in Boralus by a malfunctioning portal to Stormwind, so my Dranei Death Knight is leading the charge. The expansion seems ok so far–I’m increasingly unwilling to spend my evenings in front of this computer so I haven’t played all that much. The DK is level 54; the horde warlock, who also made it into Shadowlands, is still 50.