Thursday, April 30, 2020

Agaves and Protesters

I think this is a marginally better picture of the flower spike down the street.  It's still not great.  I'm wondering if my camera is giving up the ghost.  It's many years old and things don't seem as crisp as before.  Replacing it will be difficult, with the advent of better cell phone cameras, point and shoots are a dying breed.

Each one of those little knobs will open and be a flower.

Anticipating that it would be hotter than the hubs of hell early in the day, riding started early as well.  By 9:30 it was hot.  This is the Yetman trail, which is a very easy trail to ride.  There is a little sand, but nothing really deep.  So we don't feel like we're risking a trip to the hospital riding here, unless a rattlesnake bites us.

Yet another cholla.

This is a yucca, they're a really unattractive hairy looking plant, but they put of the most amazing flower spikes.

Another agave blooming in the neighborhood.  When it dies after blooming, it's going to leave a big hole in the landscaping.

Palo Verde season is coming to an end.  Look at the front yard of this house, it's covered in Palo Verde debris.  If the yard is graveled, it's really hard to get all the yellow bits out.

The right wingers were out today in Michigan.  They stormed the state house demanding an end to the stay at home order.  They were not social distancing as they demanded entry.  This guy is just heinous, being in the faces of the police, yelling and spraying spit.  It will be interesting to see if there is a spike in cases after today. 

Here they are on the balcony carrying their beloved firearms. 

Other than whining about the heat, and men carrying AR-15s into government buildings I have nothing much to say.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Flower Spikes and Meat Packing

We took the Lexus in for its six month checkup this morning.  The kid that greeted us was wearing a mask and didn't get near us.  Then the service adviser came out with no mask.  When she handed Jim a piece of paper to sign, she got within two feet of him to point at to where to sign.  I blurted out that she was too close and to please step back.  I felt bad about saying that to her, but really!

It's still pretty yellow out there. 

This is growing in a front yard down the street.  The flower spike is just enormous, I've never seen one this big.  The agave it's sprouting from is doesn't seem capable of supporting that much weight.  That's a three foot wall behind them.

This is a close up of it.  The light is really harsh, it's not a great photo.  I will be interested to see what the flowers look like.  You may expect regular updates on this.

 I recently wondered why Tyson had spent the money on full page ads declaring that the food supply chain was broken and to expect shortages.  They got what they wanted when the orange man ordered processing plants to stay open yesterday.  More importantly, the plant owners are now shielded from liability for the lives lost when people on the line contract Covid-19 and die.  One wonders who will staff the plants after all of the current workers are dead.  The order did not detail how plants were to keep workers safe; Sonny Perdue punted it back to OSHA and CDC.

Governor Ducey is giving a press conference.  Stay at home is in effect until May 15.  Then there will be a gradual re-open.  He's not talking about the orange man's three stages, or two weeks of declining cases.  Now they're talking about the disaster that is occurring on the Navajo reservation.  They're hoping to have two hospitals online by this weekend.  This weekend!  The people that live up there don't have running water.  Life on the Navajo reservation is hard.  The saddest thing of all is that the elders are the ones who are dying, and they are the ones who can still speak the language.  This could be the end of a culture.

Today's high is 102, tomorrow should be 104.  The weather heads are all talking about how it's running 10 to 12 degrees above normal.  I really and truly hope this is not the new normal.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Riding and Lizards

Yesterday's pickup at Safeway was good.  We got all but one thing we ordered (low sodium soy sauce), and the vegetables looked good.  I was not happy that the package of chicken was in the same bag as the vegetables, but over all it's still better than going in the store.

At 6:30 this morning, I was awakened by a noise I could not identify.  First I thought street sweeper? but dismissed it.  I was hearing concrete trucks loading the concrete pumper down the street.  These things are just amazing to me, how they can pump concrete up that high.  They were pouring the slab on a new house that's being built.  

This is the same Palo Verde as in yesterday's post.  It's kind of pretty.  This is top of the the first hill we ride up, and there is usually a brief rest while we gasp for air.  We were up and out early to ride again this morning.  In addition to not liking to get up early, I don't like how long it makes the day. 

We saw this later, this is how roof mounted air conditioners are installed.

This lizard was on the wall by the driveway.  He's really pretty.  I was able to get fairly close to him.  It's too bad that shadow was where it was.

I'm sure you've read the stories about goats running lose in Wales, pelicans on the move in London and etc.  This was the best photo yet. 

That's it!  That's all I've got.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Hot! and a Broken Supply Chain

Aaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhh.  It's hot.  It's hot early in the hot season.  I think I've whined about about this before, but what else do I have to do?  We were up and out of the house at 7:50 this morning to go ride the bikes.  It is so hard to get up early!  I laugh at us a lot because when we were working we were up at 5:30 in the morning to be at work at 7:30.  My standard statement was that I would not hate working so much if I didn't have to get up so early.

Here we have a blooming Palo Verde tree, producing much pollen.  I'm really happy about disposable contacts, they're so much more comfortable than monthlies.  I'm also happy about Flonase nose spray, and Ketotifen which is an antihistamine for the eyes.  Alaway makes a knock off of the name brand (Zatador) which is less expensive if you get it on Amazon.  It's very effective.  Flonase does have the potential to exacerbate one's cataracts, so it should only be used in allergy season.  

More blooming yellow cholla.

Cat Mountain this morning, with the steenking yellow Palo Verdes foreground.

Here we have the Hubble's photo of the Mystic Mountain space something.  I can't remember.  Hubble photos are always so cool, no matter what the subject matter.

Yesterday, Tyson took out ads saying the food chain is broken and that there will be shortages due to plant closures.  I wonder why they bothered to spend the money on the ads.  Are they hinting that we should run out and panic shop and hoard meat?  Should we run out and buy mass quantities of rice and beans?  There are many cheaper ways to spread this message than through paid advertising.  I wonder if they want to re-open the plants without supplying the employees PPE, more distancing and safer working conditions.  They say they're doing these things so they can safely reopen but I wonder.  Full disclosure, my bias tends to view most large corporations with a jaundiced eye when it comes to how they treat line employees.  The Hill had an article about it.
In a full-page ad published in The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, board chairman John Tyson wrote that “the food supply chain is breaking," saying farmers will be left without anywhere to sell livestock and "millions of animals — chickens, pigs and cattle — will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities."
I am guessing depopulated translates to being slaughtered without the means to do something with the carcasses.  The beef farmer W. Kamau Bell interviewed said he was going to turn his cows out to pasture and hope for better times.  

Today's entertainment has been cleaning javelina snot off the sliding glass door that goes out to the patio.  Apparently the little dears have been in the yard again looking at the geranium and gerbera daisy through the glass.  Go here and scroll to the bottom. Then we wandered out into the yard and discovered the Little John Bottlebrush we planted a year ago literally went from being a gorgeous green to a sickly yellowish color over night.  I do not know what these plants want.  Perhaps the plant whisperer from London can make a house call.

Other than that, our major excitement today will be a grocery pickup at 5:00 pm at the local Safeway.  I'm hoping to get the things Fry's didn't have.  It'll be something.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Washington State Good, New York Maybe Not so Much

We were up and out at 6:45 this morning, heading for Fry's.  Mirable dictu they had several brands of toilet paper.  Jim and I have used more crappy toilet paper in the last five weeks than in forever.  The meat selection was very limited.  I don't need flour or sugar so we didn't go down that aisle.  Produce was looking good.  Even though we were not there for senior hours, there were not that many people in the store.  They were probably sleeping.  We came home from the store, put stuff away, and took a restorative nap.  As we have to get up earlier and earlier to go outside on the bikes, siesta may become part of our daily routine.

This article in the New Yorker is excellent.  The science dominated response from Governor Jay Inslee was just spectacular.  The non-science responses from Mayor DeBlasio and Governor Cuomo were late.  I know, I know, everybody currently loves Cuomo, but let us not forget his current budget will slash Medicaid and the safety net.  He also closed hospitals so they could be replaced by luxury housing, which exacerbated the bed shortage at the height of the pandemic. The article is long, but really worth reading.
The piece discusses the Epidemic Intelligence Service and efforts by the EIS to get people to stay home. Their messaging was largely sidelined by the president's desire to be large and in charge.  It's unfortunate. 
Alumni of the E.I.S. are considered America’s shock troops in combating disease outbreaks. The program has more than three thousand graduates, and many now work in state and local governments across the country. “It’s kind of like a secret society, but for saving people,” Riedo told me. “If you have a question, or need to understand the local politics somewhere, or need a hand during an outbreak—if you reach out to the E.I.S. network, they’ll drop everything to help.”
Today, New York City has the same social-distancing policies and business-closure rules as Seattle. But because New York’s recommendations came later than Seattle’s—and because communication was less consistent—it took longer to influence how people behaved. According to data collected by Google from cell phones, nearly a quarter of Seattleites were avoiding their workplaces by March 6th. In New York City, another week passed until an equivalent percentage did the same. Tom Frieden, the former C.D.C. director, has estimated that, if New York had started implementing stay-at-home orders ten days earlier than it did, it might have reduced COVID-19 deaths by fifty to eighty per cent. Another former New York City health commissioner told me that “de Blasio was just horrible,” adding, “Maybe it was unintentional, maybe it was his arrogance. But, if you tell people to stay home and then you go to the gym, you can’t really be surprised when people keep going outside.”
More than fifteen thousand people in New York are believed to have died from COVID-19. Last week in Washington State, the estimate was fewer than seven hundred people. New Yorkers now hear constant ambulance sirens, which remind them of the invisible viral threat; residents are currently staying home at even higher rates than in Seattle. 
The article will be published in the May 4 issue of the New Yorker, titled "The Pandemic Protocol" if you want to read it on paper.

The person who did listen to science was Jay Inslee.  Washington state did not suffer nearly as much as New York City.  The New Yorker article above talks about that, and so does this article.   It's an opinion piece from March 31, so things have changed, but the main issue is Inslee put science in the forefront and did not use the pandemic as a bully pulpit for re-election.

Today is Melania's 50th birthday.  This is how the orange man is helping her celebrate the occasion.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Tucson and the Virus

Greetings Earthlings.  How are you doing today in your self imposed, socially distanced, quarantined homes?  If nothing else, I will learn how to spell quarantine during this process.  I've been using a process of elimination of letters and spell check.

Here we have a yellow cactus bloom.  It's a cholla, it has the ugly gnarly arms.

There is a new neighborhood going in on Congress Avenue, near downtown.  They have a modern street car stop right by the complex.  I have previously written about it here and here.   The concept of the neighborhood was that it would be walkable, and that people would know their neighbors.  There are restaurants and wine bars within spitting distance.  I really have to wonder who approved zoning for the area. After going to Walgreens for Flonase, we took a drive into downtown to look at the area.  Yay!  Road trip, sort of.

Look in the background.  See that horrible white structure looming over the houses?  That wasn't there last year.

Look at how close the apartment building is to the house.  There has been no progress on the house in over a year.  I wonder if the people who commissioned its construction have bailed on the project.

They're putting two of these in.  Across the street another giant hole is being built for more apartments.  Across the street, land is being cleared for another giant something.  I get that infill building is good, but I think there could have been a little more sensitivity for the houses that were there first.  It goes without saying that no increases in road capacity are being built to accommodate all of the new housing.

There is a lot of glare in this photo because I took it out of the side window of the jeep.  Those a Palo Verdes in bloom.  Look at the size of them!  Jim and I bought round two of the Flonase at the drugstore today so we can continue breathing.

Yesterday and today have been fairly depressing.  WHO announced today that there is no data to back up the belief that having Covid-19 confers immunity from future infections.  If that's truly the case, then there will be no herd immunity, and without a vaccine or therapeutics, it's an extinction level event.  Really not what I had in mind for my golden years.  Probably not yours, either.

Do you ever wonder where the orange menace gets his ideas?  The Guardian is reporting that a leader of a group espousing industrial bleach for use on humans has been in touch with the White House.
The leader of the most prominent group in the US peddling potentially lethal industrial bleach as a “miracle cure” for coronavirus wrote to Donald Trump at the White House this week.
In his letter, Mark Grenon told Trump that chlorine dioxide – a powerful bleach used in industrial processes such as textile manufacturing that can have fatal side-effects when drunk – is “a wonderful detox that can kill 99% of the pathogens in the body”. He added that it “can rid the body of Covid-19”.
I hope no one from the Arsenic Foundation starts writing him.  What could go wrong?

There will probably be food shortages.  It's all over the news, that with each processing plant closure, a large chunk of the food supply goes off line.  One wonders why there are so few processing plants; that each one represents such a significant source of food.  Did you know that Smithfield is not American owned?  China.  Anyway, neither here nor there, but what has happened is that anti-trust laws have not been enforced.  Over the years, fewer and larger processing plants have resulted from mergers and ownership by multinationals.  There is no slack in the system.  As the virus spreads, more plants will close.  It's not just meat packing, it's french fries, putting carrots in the bags, putting stickers on the tomatoes.  It all requires human touch.  W. Kamau Bell did a really good interview about these things with a farmer in the heartland, Scott Blubaugh.  It's a good read.

Do you ever wonder what the president does all day?  Your questions are answered here.  It involves watching a lot of television.

Covid-19 is the gift that keeps on giving.  Younger people are developing mild cases of the virus, but they're also developing blood clots.  They're both in the veins and the arteries.  The neurosurgeons pulling them out of people's heads described snagging one with the hook and seeing others forming.  It's a fairly chilling article.  If you have friends or kids in the 30-40 year old range, make sure they know the symptoms of stroke and that it's treatable if they get to the hospital quickly.  Time lost is brain lost.  More can be found here.

Finally, we have this.  I think it's funny.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Hot, Cactus and the Virus

After a fairly cold and mediocre winter, we predicted the heat would be here early.  We were right.  Note the little thermometers on top of the sun icons.

The trichocereus are blooming!  Yay!  I really like them.  This one is down the street from us.

I love the little palm tree looking things in the cup of the flower.

Here are more from other yards.

This cactus has an interesting blooming habit.  The blossoms just leap out of the side of the cactus.

Pretty cool, eh?

This is a mannequin in somebody's yard, the clothing changes with the seasons.  The first couple of times we walked by, we waved and said hi.  Then we realized it wasn't a person.

The HOA sealed the street in front of our house today.  We're not supposed to drive on it until tomorrow.  That did not stop the Amazon Prime truck from moving one of the barriers and coming down the street.  I guess "road closed" does not resonate with Prime drivers.  Anyway, this is what I saw when I got back from the two mile walk through the neighborhood.  They're doing the second coat of black goo.  One of the two is a trainee.

I could hear the one telling the other one to "drop your elbow."

Later it was "raise your shoulder."

Here he is adjusting the tilt of the sprayer.  I always assumed they just walked down the street spraying back and forth, but apparently there is skill and technique involved in this.  Who knew?

 I almost made it to the end of a post today without mentioning the orange menace.  However, I waited too long and he had the daily mini rally during which he said one of the most stupid things I have ever heard.  Earlier someone had reported that direct sunlight helps kill the virus.  Taking the podium, the orange one suggested this warranted further study.
“Supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way,” Trump said to Bill Bryan, the undersecretary for science and technology at the Homeland Security Department during the evening White House briefing. He urged him to test it.
The president then mused that perhaps bleach or another disinfectant can also be injected into the body to kill the virus.
“Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets on the lungs and it does a tremendous number,” the president said.
He encouraged Bryan to test that theory too, but noted the government should involve medical doctors on that one.
He wants to test injecting people with bleach.  You can watch the clip from CSPAN here.

So while I'm on the subject of poor response to the pandemic, there is this.  Azar is the head of HHS, which oversees CDC and FDA.  After assuring the public that all would be well ...
Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19. The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him “the dog breeder.”
Harrison raises Labradoodles.  I'm not sure how that qualifies a person to run a pandemic response.

Every single day I think it can't get any worse, and yet it does.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A Big Cholla and the Virus

This is a terrible cell phone picture taken through the dirty windshield of the Jeep, but what it does show is how dang yellow it is here.  The Acacias are winding down their spring bloom.  The Palo Verdes are ramping up theirs.  I think there is still something after that, but I can't remember.  I should write that down.  It's no wonder we can't breathe.

This is the best cholla in Tucson.  It's in front of an apartment complex.  It's a huge plant, it's about three feet taller than I am, I'm 5 foot 5.  It's an amazing plant.  It has the best looking arms of any of them.

Just look at those arms, really pretty, not gnarly.

There were many bees.  I was brave, and moved in closer for pictures anyway.  We have Africanized bees, so one does not swat or wave at them to leave.  See the bee in the upper left hand quadrant?

This is an article I want to not lose, thus I'm putting it here.  I need to keep reading it and looking up words.  Basically it's saying that people are sometimes put on ventilators too soon.  Covid-19 is new, and unpredictable, and it often looks like Advanced Respiratory Distress Syndrome, but it's different.  New ways of observation are required.
Circular thinking is especially dangerous when managing patients with coronavirus. After a patient starts on a therapy, it is often stated that the patient is “requiring” the said therapy. Physicians commonly state that "a patient's oxygen requirements are going up,” without making any attempt to measure oxygen consumption; it would be more accurate to simply say the patient’s level of supplemental oxygen has been increased. Reports on Covid-19 are also articulated as “patients requiring mechanical ventilation.”1-3 Only a small proportion of patientslargely those in a cardiac arrest situation“require” mechanical ventilation. In most instances, mechanical ventilation is instituted preemptively out of fear of an impending catastrophe. These patients are receiving mechanical ventilation and it is impossible to prove that they “required” it when first implemented.
He goes on to discuss that doctors should attempt to wean off the ventilator after 24 hours.  I read a lot of med-twitter, and there seems to be a significant change in thinking about ventilators.

There is a shortage of swabs with which to do testing.  Puritan, the company that makes them in the US has been inundated by demand.  Enter the entrepreneurs.  They're 3D printing swabs.  It's really cool.  EnvisionTec is one such company.  WAPO did a very interesting article in how this is developing.
The company is teaming up with a network of 500 affiliated medical labs that already use EnvisionTec printers to make medical devices such as dentures and mouth guards. They are now making 200,000 testing swabs a day and have the capacity to make 1 million a day, said chief executive Al Siblani.
Siblani said those labs had largely sent home their employees during the pandemic because their work had been deemed “nonessential.” They are gradually returning, he said, to make testing swabs on 3-D printers already designed to make safe, medical-grade products.
They swabbed me in 2016 to see if I had the flu, I can remember how much that hurt.

I am not liking the idea that mouth guards and dentures were deemed non-essential.  Not being able to chew, or grinding your teeth down to the nubs while you sleep are both very bad things.

Also interesting was an article on how genomic sequencing of the virus has allowed scientists to see where the virus came from.  As the virus jumps from one location to another, it mutates.  After sequencing the RNA, family trees of the virus can be developed.  Thanks to open source data, these trees can be plotted.  There is an extremely cool animation of how the virus has changed over time and space.  In the article there is a link to the origin of delays in testing, which is also worth a read.  So much time was lost due to internecine warfare between bureaucracies.  Both are terrific articles, written in standard English and well worth reading.  NYT and WAPO have taken Covid-19 articles out from behind the paywall so you should be able to read them.

Today or yesterday, Dr. Bright, who lead the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority was ousted from his job.  His department developed treatments for epidemics.  Dr. Bright resisted the rush to use hydroxychloroquine because it was an unproven therapy.  Resisting the president will cost you your job.  Article on CNN is here.  This really pisses me off.

What would a post be without some mention of the orange man?  This is what he tweeted this morning.  I did not know that Iran had flying boats.

So, many lenders have instituted a three month period during which you do not have to make payments.  However, in month 4, they want all that money paid.  If you've been unemployed, who has that much money?  There is a viral video out in which Mr. Vic DiBitetto suggests that the three unpaid months could be moved to the end of the loan.  The lender loses nothing by doing this.  I'm linking to the video.   Approximately every third word used by Mr. DiBitetto is the F word.  If this will offend you, please don't click on the link.  The degree to which this guy is pissed off is amazing, and so I include it for your consideration.