Sunday, June 28, 2020

Life in a Pandemic

Ho hum, in between watching the destruction of the economy, democracy and every other thing we used to hold dear by the complete imbecile in the White House, and fearing for our lives if we leave the house, things are boring.  I am particularly tired of eating.  So uninspired I was that I actually made chicken thighs breaded with corn flakes in the oven.  It was not terrible.  They don't work well as left overs at all.

These were taken last Wednesday, we had an interesting sun set.  First the clouds in the west were uplighted by the sun.


If you look to the right, you can see rays from the setting sun.  I think there is a name for that, but it escapes me at the moment.


In the summer, the sunset moves northward.  However, when there is weather, it's worth checking in the back of the house.  These are cool clouds.  I should have changed lenses so I could get more of the cloud, but these things don't last long, so one must photo while the photoing is good.


Yesterday was one of the two worst days of June.  It hit 110 and it was humid.  Just awful.  We needed to transfer two gallons of paint out of the big bucket into the small containers behind it.  This was so painful.  But first, admire the paint stirrer foreground hooked up to the drill.  That was the best $11 we have spent in some time.  Trying to stir that much paint by hand was a non-starter.  The first level of pain was getting the lid off the bucket.  It was really on there.


Then there was the stirring.  We're working in the small remaining patch of shade in the yard.


Then there was transferring the paint into the smaller containers.  Our original thought of pouring out of the big bucket was abandoned due to its weight.  Jim is using a measuring cup that had crazed and was taken out of service.  It was good, there was no cleaning of it required.


We finally got our act together and took the furniture seat cushions into the garage.  They're on the western side of the house and while they're not ruined yet, they could be.  Have you priced patio furniture lately?  It has gotten stupid expensive.  The covers for the frames and webbing should arrive today from Amazon.


Speaking of Amazon, I ordered a measuring cup March 26.  It took three full months to arrive.  It came directly from Beijing.  That is  an interesting business plan, direct ship from China.  Also interesting is that my invoice shows that it cost $8.61, and now it's priced at $27.  We will have to monitor that credit card.


It's borosilicate glass.  It's really weird, it is so light it feels like it's plastic, but it's not.  The blue markings are not as easy to read as the Pyrex red.  But hey, it's not supposed to explode in the microwave!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

I took this today from the Jeep.  The black dots are dead bugs on the windshield.  That's the Bighorn fire in the distance.  You can't see it here, but the red slurry from the original attempts to put the fire out is way far to the left.  The fire has advanced quite some distance.  One wonders if they will ever get this out.  It was 110 today, which is really terrible for the fire fighters.



I swear this chicken is my happy place.  He lives in Trelawnyd, Wales.  There used to be two of them, now there is only one.  Life is tough when you're a free range rooster.  He's up on the garden wall having his tea.  You can read about life in Trelawnyd here.


We are returning now to the disaster that is the US Covid-19 response.  Mask wearing has been shown to reduce the spread.  It's not a theory, it's a demonstrable fact.  You know, facts, the things that are the underpinnings of science.

This was filmed in Florida.  It's been all over Twitter, Huff Post and the NBC nightly news, so I don't feel petty or snarky putting it on the blog.  Go here and play the video.  This is why the virus is never going to be contained, because people in the US have become lunatics about wearing a mask.


Yesterday in Scottsdale, AZ, which is a white, Republican bastion of wealthy people; Scottsdale City Councilman Guy Phillips  was videotaped shouting "I Can't Breathe" before removing his mask at the  Anti-Mask Rally in Arizona.  Governor Ducey rebuked him for using George Floyd's last words like that, it was truly disgusting.  Today Phillips apologized.  One hopes that he loses his seat for being stupid and racist in public.  There is an article up on the subject, but they make you disable your ad blocker.  Or you can just go here to watch the video on twitter.

Other than this, I have doodly squat to report.  I'm not even going to discuss the orange man's speech in Wisconsin today.  I just can't.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Burning Down the House

I took this out of the car on the freeway on the way to the doctor's office yesterday.  The winds had died off and the smoke from the Bighorn fire was gently settling on the hillsides and into Tucson.  It would be pretty if it wasn't so terrible. 


When we lived in Washington, we had the same doctors starting in 1985.  It's really weird going to someone new, we had so much history with the old practice.  I didn't want to do a core dump on the new doc, so I guess I'll let the medical history dribble out as it becomes necessary.

So this week Barr and the orange man are breaking the country some more.  The administration is going to stop paying for Covid testing in Texas.  That would be one of the states whose case counts are rising.  During the Tulsa rally, orange dude said if you don't test, you don't have cases.  I wonder if he believes testing causes cases.  It would not surprise me.  The orange man is also thinking about getting rid of CDC scientists and replacing them with political appointees.  That will make things so much better.

Today, Aaron Zelinsky (former prosecutor of Roger Stone) testified that Roger Stone's case was handled differently because of his relationship with the president.  They were told to go easy on Stone, that it wasn't a hill worth dying on.  Barr apparently is just fine with that.  So now the rule of law is turning in to the rule of whoever the president likes.  So much for the law and order president.

The EU is considering not allowing people from the US into their countries, given our complete and total failure in controlling the spread of Covid-19.  It will be interesting to see how much that pisses off the president.  We already can't go to Canada or Mexico, so I guess the continent will be the next area where we're not welcome. This is how Germany sees us.



As of this writing, the orange man is speaking to a large number of young people in Phoenix, who are not wearing masks and are literally sitting shoulder to shoulder.  It's likely this will be a super spreader event, given the number of cases in Phoenix.  He just told a giant lie about the economy would pick up in third quarter and that he would not be allowing the Democrats to shut anything down.  This statement just delegitimized the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask. He would rather kill another 100,000 people to get re-elected.  Aaron Rupar is live tweeting the event, the orange man has reached the unhinged part of his presentation.  It just astonishes me that these kids' parents would allow them to go sit in that auditorium and risk death.

So, Jim and I are fairly depressed about the future.  If the president is re-elected, I don't think this country will survive four more years of his corruption and inability to deal with the virus, because he just doesn't care.  He really is going to kill us all.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

SDNY and Rally Happiness

Well yesterday was interesting.  Friday night AG Barr announced that Geoffrey Berman, of the SDNY, had resigned.  Mr. Berman fired back that he had done no such thing and did not intend to vacate his office.  Mr. Berman is a judicial appointment, made after the orange man fired Preet Bharara and never replaced him.  The only person who can fire Mr. Berman is the orange man.


AG Barr responded with the statement that the orange man had fired Mr. Berman.  The orange man then said on live television that he had not done this.  Apparently they forgot to coordinate their lies.


Eventually the orange man did fire Mr. Berman.  However, the head of the SEC, who is not a prosecutor and who was Barr's pick to replace Berman did not get the job.  It went to Audrey Strauss, who is Berman's deputy.  She is a prosecutor with decades of experience and first hand knowledge of the cases that have been in work by SDNY.

There is strong suspicion that SDNY is investigating Rudy Giuliani.  If that's the case, it could also spill over into investigating the orange man.  AG Barr did not do a good job on this whole thing.

There was a rally in Tulsa, OK last night; or as Eric Trump spells it "Tusla."  It did not go well.  The tik-tok kids and the K-Pop kids trolled the campaign and bumped up ticket requests to about a million.  Parscale and the orange man fell for it.  They built an out door area for the expected giant spill over crowd.  All told, about 6,200 people showed up for the event.  The outdoor area was quickly removed.  So, the stadium, which holds about 19,000 people was not full.



For some reason, the orange man thought it would be a good idea to say that he had said to his people  to "slow the testing down."  Testing is a double edged sword, you know.  More testing, more cases.  His people have tried to walk it back saying it was tongue and cheek, but I don't think so.  He spent about 20 minutes talking about walking down the ramp at West Point, talked about doing 600 salutes which made his arm tired, and then demonstrated that he can, too, drink water out of a glass.  That got a standing ovation.   The bar is pretty low for his supporters.

He does not look invigorated by his rally.

It will be interesting to see if he does any more rallies, since this one was so terrible.

Today we went for a hike to see how it would be.  It would be hot.  I think we'll stick to the bikes, because they make breeze.  The desert is looking somewhat desiccated.


The Palo Verdes are launching their pods far and wide.  The front corner of the yard is covered in these.  Next year we need to remember to prune off all of the overhanging branches.


Pima County has made the wearing of face coverings mandatory.  One hopes that the grocery stores will enforce this.  Last night there were 287 ICU beds available in Arizona.  I just really do not want to get this.  The charts showing the spike in cases is just gruesome.

Other than this, I have zippity doo-dah all to report.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Day 90 of Social Isolation

I took this picture two days ago.  The Bighorn fire looms over Tucson, it's growing.  It looks ominous when you can see the fire swirling on the ridges this far away.  Last time I checked it was threatening a development called Saddlebrook.  There are a lot of homes there.  It makes me wonder if Tucson Mountain Park (across the street from us) would burn like this. 


There's just not that much to write about since we are mostly in the house.  Between the virus and the heat, we're pretty much in for the day after about 9:30 or so.  Arizona's cases are increasing at an enormous rate.  Governor Ducey is back pedaling on his message of all is well, and is giving local governments the ability to mandate the wearing of masks.  Hopefully Mayor Romero will act on this before it's too late.  The hospitals are in the process of being overwhelmed by patients.  Today's testing had a rate of 20% positives.

This is a butterfly on the bougainvillea.  Its wings look a little tattered.




I need to get my camera manual out, I could not remember how to make the shutter speed faster, something I did with great regularity when we would sit outside watching the hummingbirds in the morning at the RV park.

That's it!  That's all I've got.




Monday, June 15, 2020

VP Pence is a Liar

This is from the New York  Times Coronavirus Live Updates section.  It will eventually roll to the bottom and not be visible.  This is worth keeping.
 

Pence urged governors to echo a misleading claim about infection spikes.

Vice President Mike Pence encouraged governors on Monday to adopt the administration’s claim that increased testing helps account for the new coronavirus outbreak reports, even though evidence has shown that the explanation is misleading.
On a call with the governors, audio of which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Pence urged them “to continue to explain to your citizens the magnitude of the increase in testing” in addressing the new outbreaks.
And he asked them to “encourage people with the news that we’re safely reopening the country.”
In fact, seven-day averages in several states with outbreaks have increased since May 31, and in at least 14 states, the positive case rate is increasing faster than the increase in the average number of tests, according to an analysis of data collected by The New York Times.
The vice president played down the overall size of the outbreaks, stressing that some states were seeing what he called “intermittent” spikes of the virus.
And he was dismissive of the idea that community spread is a culprit, focusing instead on specific outbreak locations, like nursing homes. In fact, as cases rise, officials in several states have specifically pointed a finger at community spread.
“The president often talks about embers,” Mr. Pence said, adding that “despite a mass increase in testing, we still averaging roughly 20,000 cases a day, which is significantly down from six weeks ago.”
Mr. Pence then instructed Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of Health and Human Services, to address the problem in a “constructive” way. Mr. Azar said that localized outbreaks at meat packing plants and nursing homes would be a continuing focus.
Dr. Deborah L. Birx, who is coordinating the administration’s response, said that hospitalization rates for coronavirus infections had generally been declining across the United States, though some states had seen an uptick. 
She said that areas of the country where protests have occurred not yet seen a rise in cases, though she said coronavirus data had begun to show “early upticks” in Minneapolis. 

Update to post 6/16:  Greg Sergeant of the WAPO did an excellent analysis of the above, which can be found here.

SCOTUS Confirms LBGTQ Rights

Today was an astounding day.  The Supreme Court ruled that employers may not fire people because of their sexual orientation.  Even more astonishing was Justice Gorsuch wrote the decision, and based it on the literal words in Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act.  Alito tried to argue that in 1964 "sex" never would have applied to LBGTQ people.  I am hopeful that this will negate the orange man signing the declarations that LBGTQ people are not protected under the ACA and that trans people can't serve in the military.

Mrs. Betty Bowers was funny on twitter.  


And there was this.


The FDA has withdrawn its emergency use approval of hydroxychoroquine, citing the fact that it doesn't help and can cause death due to fatal arrhythmias.  The orange man had a hard time accepting that, saying that "many people" felt it had saved their lives.  Tell that to the patients at the VA who died while taking it.  Anyway, that worm Azar commented that people could still take it off label if their doctor would prescribe it.  Admit you were wrong, worm people!

There was a massive Denial of Service Attack today.  Phone networks, Instagram, Twitter, et al. were affected.  It's too bad the orange man fired the Cyber Security department.  That was after they fired the Pandemic Response team.  How did that work out?

Today was much like every other day, but with less wind.  The Bighorn fire has spread to 14,000 acres.  Summerhaven, which is a small community at the top of Mt. Lemon has been warned they may have to evacuate.  This is not good.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Fruit and Defunding

Well, I guess blogger is trying to force me off the legacy platform right now.  The upload photos box comes up blank.  No photos can be loaded.  I went over to the new one and uploaded and then went back.  The new layout and the stupid meaningless icons just offend the living snot out of me.  If you ever edit html, like if you get two photos stuck together without a break between them, you'll hate that, too.  They took all of the spaces out, so it's really hard to tell where you need to put the break code. It's incredibly difficult to read now, it's all strung into one long sentence.

I have a new pod to show us.  I'm not sure what kind of tree it came from.  The color on it is really nice.


This it the saguaro on the side of the wash by the house.  It has several open fruits.  Look about dead center, there is a tiny bird eating the fruit.


They're messy looking.  I guess the flowers eject the core of jelly and seeds.


Altanta PD shot an African American in the back Friday night.  I don't understand what the overwhelming threat to their safety was since he was running away.



AOC did an interview with Marie Claire.  She was asked what defunding the police would look like.  Her response was that it would look like the white suburbs.  She's got a point there.  You can find the interview here.

It's really hot and really windy.  June is shaping up to be as bad as we thought it would be.  Since our case loads are sky rocketing, the thought of mall walking is just not that appealing. We've hearkened back to H1N1 days when we wouldn't spend time in a mall even though it was hot.


Friday, June 12, 2020

Hot and Masks

We were up and out early on the bikes today.  Probably not early enough given how dang hot it was, but a person can only give up so much sleep.  I keep thinking that eventually we'll acclimate and it won't suck so much.  That day can not come soon enough.

So we saw something new and cool today.  After saguaros boom, they fruit.  The fruit opens and bats from Mexico come up to feed on them at night.  During the day, doves, bugs and other critters come for the nutrients.  Eventually they dry up and fall to the ground and other animals eat them. What's interesting to me is that the bats come from way far away, how do they know it's time to fly north?


Here is a better picture than my cell phone camera of the open fruit.  This was swiped from the internet.


The refrigerator repairman is here again to work on the annoying leak from the water dispenser and the equally annoying leak in the freezer.  Thank all of the saints that Jim had the foresight to get the five year warranty.  This is visit number five for this frig.  Eventually we can file a "lemon" claim on the thing and get our money back.  This trip may be enough service calls to qualify.  It just annoys the living spit out of me.  It was very expensive and I think it should do better.  Today we're getting a new water valve and ice maker

Anyway, I'm sitting in my chair with a bandana on so I don't have to hand wash a mask.  I know in my head that I am not suffocating, but why is breathing in a mask so unpleasant?

Eric Topot put up a tweet with a bunch of science about why the wearing of a face covering is so important.  There are a lot of words, but it can be summed up with "wear the damn mask."  The Irish Times also has a piece with words and not charts.  A friend of mine put this up on Facebook, which also simplifies the findings.  It's the asymptomatic people that are the scariest.  We were in Safeway yesterday, and mask wearing is at about 60-70%.  They're still limiting how many people can be in the store, spraying the carts with disinfectant and the aisles are one way.  We're still working on obeying the directional arrows.  But there are people with naked faces, and that is starting to look really weird to me, to see the bottom of people's faces.



I like Captain Sulu's take on the wearing of masks.  As a child, he was sent to a Japanese internment camp, despite being an American citizen.


NPR repeated a Brief  but Spectacular Moment by Damon Davis last week.  He's an artist and film maker.  It's about his experience of being African American in the US.  It was really well said and I want to keep the link.  The link has the video as well as a written transcript of what he said.  It's well worth looking at.

Finally, if you want to read Walter Shaub's fantastic take down of John Cleese comparing toppling Confederate statues to taking down all Aristotle and Socrates' statues, go here and read it.  That man can truly craft a sentence.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

And Now in Local News

It's been awhile, but there are local things to discuss.  Our boredom and ennui continue, nay even increase, with the news that Arizona is a hot spot for the virus.  Of all the hot spot states, we have the highest percentage increase.  The cause seems to be all of the yahoos who just could not stay home over Memorial Day and went to Lake Havasu where they congregated in large numbers, drank much alcohol and wore no masks.  Currently eight out of ten hospital beds are occupied; the health officials are concerned at how many people are really sick and are on ventilators.  However, our governor insists all is well and we should go out for a beer and a haircut.  Our mayor has Tucson closed down until June 22.  There has been some hinting that the governor's office is fudging the numbers, they're lower than what the hospitals are reporting.

Previously I have complained about the fact that Tucson built this beauteous bike trail system, completely separated from cars, and then they keep closing large sections of it for one reason or the other.  Jim and I have been working up to riding on the road again, or we were until this.  This is Kinney Road, which is pretty much the only way out of here to get to the trail.  Notice that the right lane is completely gone.  After surviving this two mile stretch (which had a good shoulder) it's not a terrifying ride.  But no.  There is yet another inexplicable road project which will cost $5M and take a year.  So, another winter season will pass with us not having a way to the trail except by driving.


They're rerouting Bopp so that it aligns with Sarasota.  Bopp is a lightly used road, since few people live out there.  Sarasota extends about a mile from Kinney and dead ends at a trail head.  Why is it so important to realign Bopp and put a stop light there?  I read the project description and was thoroughly unenlightened as to why this is more important than fixing the pot holes that plague this entire area.  The dashed line is the new route for Bopp, and then they will terminate old Bopp before it reaches Kinney.  I'm really peeved about the whole thing.


Last Thursday we were bored.  How bored were we?  It was 105 and we decided to drive out east and wander around a nursery.  You have to be pretty bored.  Their plants were not looking as good as they did last spring. Here we have an agave which has produced a flower spike which has impacted the sun screen that keeps the plants from sun burning.  One has to admire its tenacity.


I really like the way this guy sprouts out arms everywhere.


This is a great looking cactus.  The word wooly comes to mind.


In the past I have mentioned that Palo Verde trees make pods.  We have pods everywhere.  Apparently they were a food source for the Tohono O'odham.


There is a good sized fire burning north of Tucson in the Catalinas along Pusch Ridge.  As of this morning it was only 10% contained.  They were slow to get fire retardant down because stupid people had drones flying in the area, which grounds the smoke bombers.  I think there should be significant jail time for being that stupid.



NYT has a new article up about the use of the National Guard last Monday when Barr used troops to clear the street in front of the Episcopal church so the orange man could stage his photo op.  "Some of the Guardsmen were just out of basic training, and others had no experience in controlling disturbances in the streets. Guard troops were allowed to drive heavy vehicles on the streets without the usual licensing."  "Tens of thousands of rifle and pistol rounds were stored in the D.C. Armory and partitioned in pallets, labeled by their state of origin, to be used on American citizens in case of emergency.”   Think about it, there were actually plans in place for the National Guard to fire live rounds at the protestors.  There will quite likely be significant investigations into the decisions that were made.  Currently the Guard has suspended all of its recruiting efforts.

In great news, today Tucker Carlson lost T-Mobile, Papa Johns, SmileDirectClub, and Disney as sponsors.  As you no doubt recall, Fox got rid of O'Reilly after he lost his sponsors.  Maybe Tucker will be next.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Day in Photos

I was alerted in the comments on yesterday's post that Ivanka's speech had been reworked on Twitter.  Ivanka was supposed to give a graduation address at Wichita State Tech.  The students there got a petition together and requested that she be uninvited due to the administration's positions on racial disparity and everything else under the sun.  Ivanka, being a senior advisor, is involved in all of that.  Anyway, her speech was cleverly altered.  The link to play it is here.


Today in Bristol UK, the statue of Edward Colston was pulled off of its plinth and thrown into the harbor.  Colston was a horrible man, and so were the aristocracy of England at that time, they were all investors.  This afternoon some person on twitter whose name I don't remember was talking about how terrible a thing this was, and the sole remaining heir responded with no, this is great.  So I'm glad to see another terrible statue taken down.  Vice has an article with imbedded video of the statue going into the drink which you can read here.


 In case you're wondering exactly where the statue is now, Google Maps has been updated.



David Olusoga, a historian, did a brief video on why this statue needs to be gone.  His basic point is that statues do not teach history, books and museums do that.  Statues glorify people and their accomplishments, and Edward Colston is not worthy of that.  Video can be played here.  In Brussels, protesters are standing on the monument to King Leopold II chanting murderer and waving the flag of Democratic Republic of Congo where the king's atrocities took place.  Germany cancelled Octoberfest because of the virus, and yet, here they are in the streets.

 
Today was a bad day for the orange one.  Former Secretary of State Colin Powell went on record saying that the orange man should not be president.  This was followed by Mitt Romney stating he would not support his re-election campaign, either.  And then there was this.  Mitt is marching towards the White House.  I did not think I would ever see this.



Fuji has announced that it will no longer sell bicycles to the police after seeing footage of the police using said bicycles as clubs against peaceful protestors.  I don't know how much market share they have, but the important thing is now Trek is being pressured to follow suit.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

D-Day Anniversary

Today is the 76th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, when the Allies landed on Normandy to remove the stain of the Fascist Hitler.


Today we see this on the orange man's campaign website.  This person is such a tool, it hurts me.




The presence of all of these men with all of those guns and no identifying badges or patches in DC has raised the hackles of many people, including me.  How does one know if they're actual official gun carrying people, or are they the Proud Boys doing cosplay?  I give you this photo.  Who are these people?  The current theory is that they're Bureau of Prisons people.  They're trained to put down riots in prison.  Exactly what one wants at a protest with civilians.


Politico did a very interesting article on just how many armed people are employed by the federal government.  It's a staggering number.  I will excerpt from the article now.

To understand the police forces ringing Trump and the White House it helps to understand the dense and not-entirely-sensical thicket of agencies that make up the nation’s civilian federal law enforcement. With little public attention, notice and amid historically lax oversight, those ranks have surged since 9/11—growing by roughly 2,500 officers annually every year since 2000. To put it another way: Every year since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the federal government has added to its policing ranks a force larger than the entire Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 
The public has little understanding or appreciation for the size of some of these agencies, each of which has its own protocols, training, hiring guidelines and responsibilities. On the lighter side, few tourists know, for instance, that the National Gallery of Art—home to some of the world’s most famous artwork—has a shooting range for its police tucked away above its soaring central rotunda. On the darker side, the roughly 20,000 federal prison guards known formally as the Bureau of Prisons—whose riot units make up a sizable chunk of the officers imported to D.C. and who represent the single largest component of federal officers in the Justice Department—are concerning to see on the streets in part because they’re largely untrained in civilian law enforcement; they normally operate in a controlled environment behind bars with sharply limited civil liberties and use-of-force policies that would never fly in a civilian environment. 
 And then there is this:
The list of crimes these agents and officers collectively enforce is endless, so much that a tongue-in-cheek Twitter feed daily shares the most obscure federal criminal penalties. One of this week’s examples: “21 USC §331, 333, 343 & 21 CFR §150.160(b)(2) make it a federal crime to sell jam made from a combination of more than five fruits.”
In news of Covid-19 we have this headline in a Phoenix paper. 

Banner says ICU beds are approaching 100% capacity

Banner is the biggest healthcare network in AZ.  They came in and bought everything, including the UofA medical school hospital.  They're everywhere.  Anyway, the article is sort of misleading, because hospitals can increase capacity by 25% by building temporary ICUs, but it's still pretty creepy.  Cases are up, as well, but our illustrious governor says it's due to increased testing and not because the state is wide open.  We can eat in restaurants now, and go to bars.  Not that we would.  We contemplated going to a cactus nursery today because we are so bored, but the thought of going on a weekend was too dire for me.

Look, you can see the new mural from space.  Pretty cool.


Poor Ivanka has been cancelled.  Poor her.



There was almost a sunset last night.  Not quite.  It did cool down, it was 71 degrees when I left on my bike this morning, it was almost chilly.  Not to worry, back to 105 by Wednesday.  Yay!