Friday, July 31, 2020

Cactus and Voting Rights

The mammalarias bloomed yesterday in response to the recent rains.  We saw a couple on the bike ride, and a neighbor sent us this photo.  They're tiny little cacti, and the grow in some of the worst locations, but they seem to thrive with just a little water.

Yesterday was a sad day, filled with the thoughts of what could have been.  Maybe the corona virus would not have been so terrible if we'd had decent leadership.  Maybe the right to vote would have been better protected under a different president.  Perhaps the economy would not have contracted by 31%, the worst in the history of the country.  Had Secretary Clinton won the electoral college, I think we'd all be better off.  But no, we got the orange man.

The comparisons were particularly blatant when watching the three former presidents speak at Representative John Lewis' funeral.  President Obama was on fire, calling out the fact that people are still being beaten and tear gassed, the vote is still suppressed and inequality is still the norm.  He got some flak from Fox news for injecting politics into a eulogy, but these words directly bore on the life of John Lewis.  So, sit down Tucker Carlson.

President Obama's eulogy is on youtube and you can find it here.

The situation at the Post Office continues to deteriorate.  In the name of cost cutting, sorting machines are being turned off early, forcing the hand sorting of mail.  Mail is being left on the floor to be delivered the next day.  The backups of undelivered mail are building, with no real way to fix it under the current directives of Postmaster DeJoy, notorious multimillion dollar Republican donor.  It's voter suppression on a national level.  AZ has early voting ballot drop off, we're going to be doing that instead of mailing them in.  WAPO did an article on the entire postal debacle.

There is no excuse for this.  AZ, a red state, has excellent tracking software.  I know when they received my primary ballot, when it left signature verification and when it was counted.  It's ridiculous that not all states have this capability.  The orange man has zero plans to protect the election - today he proposed that only ballots counted election night should count.  Think about that.  That's after floating the idea of delaying the election yesterday.  Thankfully that is getting zero traction with the Republican party.

In news of acquisition, I finally broke down and bought a new phone.  It's a Samsung Galaxy A51.  I was leaning toward a Google Pixel 3A until the guy at the Costco kiosk told me that if I had been using an HTC, that moving to a Pixel would be painful, different operating system and all that.  Plus, it's been on the market for two years, and after two years getting upgrades is difficult.  They don't transfer files for you anymore.  You have to download a Samsung app, Smart Switch.  After activating the app on both phones, you put them next to each other and the old phone pushes the files you want to the new phone.  It worked, but some cursing and swearing was required.  So, hopefully the next time a coyote poses for me, I can get a decent photo.  I made a screen saver, I feel very technically competent.

 So, that's what's shaking in the hot west.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Monsoon 2020

I'm officially giving up on Monsoon 2020.  We've had two days of rain, one of which was pretty short.  It's all going east of us.  So unfair.  We get the humidity, but no real benefit of rain, but the clouds look nice.

Ocotillos drop their leaves when times are tough.  This one has looked dead for months.  All it took was a little water and leaves popped out of the branches.  They are good at taking advantage of what ever water comes their way.  The prickly pear to the right has also plumped up and is not looking half dead at present.

Ocotillo with the setting sun on it.

Did you all see that Donald Trump Junior got put in twitter jail for spreading misinformation about Covid-19?  He retweeted a video of a group of doctors claiming that hydroxychloroquine cures Covid-19 and therefore there is no need to wear masks, socially distance or do any of the other things that people like Dr. Fauci are telling us to do.  A video of Dr. Immanuel and several doctors from the far right group called America’s Frontline Doctors touting the benefits of hydroxychloroquine went viral.  The Daily Beast has an article on the subject.

The video was viewed more than 14 million times, until Facebook and Twitter took it down.  What is wrong with Americans that they can't distinguish between real science and faux science?  If you want to listen to the orange man talking, the link to the video is here.

Today, during the testimony of AG Barr, he was heard to say that he would only step down if the election results are clear.  Doesn't that happen when the states certify their election results?  I think they're setting things up to contest the election.  A landslide is needed.  Get your absentee ballots and get them in the mail!

Update to post 7/29/20: WAPO put up an opinion piece about the doctors' recommendation about hydroychloroquine that's pretty good.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Killer Hand Sanitizer

It ended up raining almost all day yesterday, which is not monsoon-like.  Generally the clouds start forming mid day, it gets really humid, then it rains and the skies clear.  That's what it did today.  These two photos are from last night.

This was taken today after the afternoon rain, followed by the sun beating down on the wet ground making it humid again.  Notice the sky in the background.  The cactus are looking better already.  We have an opuntia that was turning bright yellow in the heat, even though he's on a drip line, but after going swimming yesterday, he's much happier.

Safeway has been carrying many brands of hand sanitizer that I have never heard of.  One of them is called Blumen.  The FDA has identified it as one of the many products that are actually made with methanol, otherwise known as wood alcohol.  Several people who drank the hand sanitizer have been poisoned, which is really not germane because none of us will be doing that.  However, methanol is absorbed through the skin.  It can result in poisoning and blindness.  What I don't know is how much is required to make a person ill.  Many of the offending products are made in Mexico, FDA has put import restrictions on them due to their inherent danger.  The WAPO article is here.  The FDA list of confirmed methanol tainted products is here.  I was pleased to find the list so that I could check out the totally overpriced stuff I bought at Safeway.

So that's it -killer hand sanitizer and rain.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Then the Rains Came

Welp - the rain is here.  We set out for the morning ride, it was sprinkling but we thought no big deal, it never really rains until the afternoon.  No - wrong.  The thunder started, the rain started and we were drenched.  I haven't been that wet on a bike in a very long time.

This was radar this morning.

Many of the roads in Tucson are nap of the earth.  If there is a wash or a low spot, the road follows the terrain.  Many roads do not have storm sewers so the water can get deep fast.  When it rains, one should not drive through the raging waters. 

And yet they do.  Every year, like clockwork they have to be rescued.

This was last night, after another dry day.  Nice clouds.

With the exception of the patio roof, we don't have gutters.  We have a flat roof with scuppers that dump water on the ground. It's not actually flat, it's pitched to get the water off.  Anyway, the water feeds into canales which direct the flow away from the house and out into the yard.  This short palm tree serves as a water break and disperses the rain.

Water on the street, backing up into the driveway.  The driveway slopes uphill from the road, so that's a fair amount of rain.

I took this standing on the patio holding my camera over my head because it was raining and my camera did not want to get wet.  This is the wash next to the house.  The brown blob mid photo is some sort of dead plant, you can see water behind it, and an eddy in front of it.  At that point it was pretty dark, so there you go.

Our gutter, doing its job.  The water runs into the wash and will eventually hit the aquifer.  Tucson still has dependence on underground water.

So that was today's excitement.  Our shoes are soaked and are sitting with a fan pointing at them.  It's still raining, so there can not be any walking out or anything.  Woe, woe is me.  It's good for the parched cactus, so one can not complain overmuch.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

No Rain

Nothing much happening here.  The DHS agents in Portland gassed the peacefully protesting Moms in Portland while they were singing lullabies, the orange man gave a Covid-19 presser with no scientists on the stage, and he wished Ghislaine Maxwell "well" with her incarceration.  With any other administration, the hair of the press would be on fire, but there was not much response to any of it.

This is a cactus outside of the front wall.  He's looking a little dried out.  It needs to rain.  The pink things are prickly pear fruit.

Skies in the morning have been overcast.  It's nice because we're not being x-rayed by the sun, but it is humid.

The new agave flower spike is on the right.  Nothing is open yet, it takes awhile to unfurl.

Other than this, I have nothing interesting to report.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Portlandia and Covid-19

Every day, every single day since the election I think it can't get any worse, and every single day it does.  So, after a few purty pictures, there will be even more rant dripping off my fingertips.

This is somewhat amusing.  Part of the morning loop is dirt.  It's easily ridden except when the wind has been blowing cholla pups onto the trail.  Then one must take evasive action.  I have learned that if you hit a pup with the front tire, it's possible to flip it into the air and into one's shin.  So, I was dodging the evil pups, but managed to brush a cholla arm on a tall cactus. Those would be spines in my handle bar grips, they were also in my hand.  It's amazing how much those things hurt.

More clouds yesterday, no rain.

Today, this is where all of the rain is going - New Mexico!  This is not fair, that's our rain.  Some of it is as far north as Colorado.

There were terrible developments yesterday, which I am going to gloss over to get to today's really terrible stuff.

A document was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity showing that eighteen states are now Covid-19 hot zones.  Do you think the administration was going to mention this?  No, the orange wombat is still maintaining it will all go away.

The new head of USPS has decreed that no overtime shall be worked.  Any mail that can't be delivered during the shift is to be left on the floor in the post office and delivered another day.  This is a deliberate attempt to slow down mail delivery.  This is critical because so much of the 2020 election will be voting by mail.  Vote early, get your ballots in as soon as possible.  Article is  here.

NYT did an excellent piece on how the orange man has moved on from the pandemic.  He's bored with it, he has civil rights to violate.  What was particularly interesting is Dr. Scarf's (Birx) role in down playing the badness and severity of Covid-19.  That woman has sold her soul for a ride on Air Force One.  Article is here.

Which brings us to Portland.  Portland is crawling with federal troops.  They're not really interested in quelling violence, or protecting federal buildings, they're interested in seeing how far they can push it.  NYT published a really good interview with Robert Evans of Bellingcat.  Bellingcat is the group that did the investigation that showed that Russia shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 over Ukraine.  60 Minutes did a piece on their work, it was impressive.  Mr. Evans has been covering Portland and what is happening there.  I'm excerpting part of the interview because it is so damn chilling.
The image of federal police in unmarked vans has captured attention because it feels so nakedly authoritarian. Is what we’re seeing just the purest example of American militarized policing or is it something different?
It’s something different. It’s two things. Law enforcement is extremely lucrative and so you have a huge class of people in a lucrative industry who feel threatened and like they need to do violence to those who want to take the job away. The other is you have Portland, which has put itself in opposition to this president who has made law and order a defining issue of his re-election.
Portland is being used as a bellwether to see what this administration can get away with. And also what works to quell protest. The police tactics don’t work. We’re on night 50. There’s this knowledge, I believe, in the more lucid chunks of the administration, that this problem will get worse in the next month. August is shaping up to be one of the hardest months in our nation’s modern history. September may be worse. And it will have to come to a head.
Acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli has previously stated that Portland is just the start.  They're planning on taking this show on the road to Chicago and New York.  He has also stated that governors do not have the authority to make them leave.

I try not to be a conspiracy wing nut.  However, think about it.  The orange wombat would not say on Chris Wallace's show if he will accept the results of the 2020 election.  If he decides to stay in the White House, he can declare martial law to control the people who will take to the streets.  He can invoke the Insurrection Act to call up the National Guard.  He'll already have federal boots on the ground.  This whole thing in Portland is giving me the willies.

Watch this video.  Watch the unprovoked savage attack on this man.  He's a US Naval Academy graduate, and the man can stand up.  The federal with the baton broke his hand, plates and screws will be required.  This was just a crap move.

Yesterday we marked the passing of Congressman John Lewis.  That man was a giant among men.  His actions caused LBJ to sign the voting rights act.  He personally hauled much of the US into the light and out of the darkness of racism.  We don't seem to have people like him anymore.  There are decent people, but no giants.  We will miss him.

Friday, July 17, 2020

No Rain, Perfidy and Malfeseance Abound

Well, no rain again.  It's very depressing.  It's hotter than hot, and with the cloud build ups it's humid.  We get out of the house to ride shortly after 7 am and it's just a sauna out there.  It does bring us some nice sunsets, but I would rather have the rain.

I think I mentioned being angry.  I have now moved on to incendiary.  Thank you, Tom and Lisa for bringing this to my attention.  Heather Richardson is an excellent researcher and writer who put up a piece on the moving of data from CDC to HHS.  It's going in to a piece of software called HHS Protect and TeleTracking which are partially owned by Peter Thiel.  This whole thing is just gruesome.  The source article is found here, hopefully I will not get a cease and desist for cutting and pasting part of her writing.

HHS Protect is developed by Palantir Technologies, a data-mining firm that works with the Pentagon and law enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Peter Thiel, a billionaire Trump supporter, co-founded the company, which last week confidentially filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. An initial public offering (IPO) would have made bucketloads of money in any case, but a federal contract to compile coronavirus information is a sweet addition to its portfolio.
The TeleTracking system also raises suspicions of a financial deal. On June 3, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), wrote to the director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Robert P. Kadlec, to ask why HHS had awarded a $10 million no-bid contract to create this data system that duplicated the one the CDC already had. Why indeed?
There is, in the letter shifting data collection, a peculiarly nasty stick. Underlined on the first page of the instructions is that “We will no longer be sending out one-time requests for data to aid in the distribution of Remdesivir or any other treatments or supplies. This daily reporting is the only mechanism used for the distribution calculations, and the daily [sic] is needed daily to ensure accurate calculations.” 
So, the message is clear.  The orange man will control the data, hospitals will be forced to use the reporting tool, or they won't get drugs, and Peter Thiel will  profit from this.   They're not even hiding their malfeseance anymore.  This is an operational definition of evil.

In news of the good, the situation in Portland, OR is now on the front page of all the major papers, and all over social media.  It appears that the acting director of DHS has dispatched CBP troops to foment violence against the "violent anarchist" graffiti sprayers.  They're taking people off the streets and transporting them in unmarked vehicles.  This is pretty much kidnapping.  Hopefully with this much press coverage these people will be withdrawn from Portland.  It's surprising to me how long it took to bubble up to the mainstream media.  If you haven't seen it, here is an article on HuffPost, which is not behind a paywall.

In news of the fun to watch, the orange man did an interview with Chris Wallace.  In an interview with another talking head, Chris mentioned that it was about 100 degrees where they were sitting outside.  Orange wondered whose idea that had been, to sit out in the sun.  It was the idea of orange, who wanted to see Chris sweat.  The orange man tried to claim Biden wanted to defund the police, Chris said no he didn't.  Orange tried to say it was in the document Biden and Sanders had signed, Chris said no it's not.  So, orange dude had the document brought to him, and was unable to find where Biden said to defund the police.  You can watch the exchange here.  The interview airs Sunday morning on Fox News, it will be interesting to see how much they cut out.

In news of the childish and petty, the orange man had the official portraits of Presidents Clinton and Bush removed from their position of prominence and put into the family dining room, which is primarily used as storage.  It has been tradition to have the paintings of the last two presidents front and center for the current president to see when he comes down the stairs.  Petty, just petty.

I swear, someday I will do a post that does not include complaining about the current administration, but each day brings such a truck load of perfidy and malfeseance that it's hard not to.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Totally Angry

I don't think I have been this angry, for this amount of time in my entire life.  This administration is just bat shit crazy as well as corrupt.

Today he held another campaign rally on the south lawn of the White House, funded by our tax dollars.  Ostensibly it was to tout his removal of regulations that are going to set businesses free to go pollute the earth and make more money.  However, he just could not help himself and he got back on the subject of low water pressure.

There was more, but I'll spare you. He finished strong with the following quote.  If you want to play the video of this word salad (and you should), go here.  He is seriously deranged.

However, what is really elevating my level of anger is the removal of hospital data from the CDC and giving it to HHS to reside on a platform developed by a sole source bidder.  After the CDC web page went blank today, there was an uproar.  HHS told CDC to put it back, so they did.  They put the data up to July 14 back.  They then announced that after today, CDC would no longer update the pages.  This kills the work of epidemiologists and people trying to make sense of the trends and just how terrible things are.  Johns Hopkins will still be able to run their dash board because they deal directly with the states.  This is how banana republics, and Florida, work.  If you don't like the numbers, don't publish them.  There is an article here.

Other news that was revealed today is that the orange man directed US security services to provide data to our ally, Putin.  Putin has used the data to track down people and kill them.  The EU is cutting us off from what they know because we can not be trusted.  Orange man still has not said one word about Putin paying the Taliban to target US soldiers in Afghanistan.  Jenna Ellis, the Senior Legal Advisor to the orange campaign, appeared on RT today.  RT would be one of the propaganda wings of Putin.  They're not even trying to hide it anymore.

In other news, the optical department at Costco has re-opened.  This surprises me somewhat, because things are worse now than when they closed it. 

Once again we've been spurned by monsoon.  There was rain west of us, but none here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Comets, Clouds, HVAC and a Change to Covid Reporting

Greetings Fellow Earthlings.  How are you on this glorious day in the final year of the Republic?  Apparently the orange man held the weirdest press conference ever in the Rose Garden today.  It was a campaign rally in which he attacked Joe Biden and made up lies.  Daniel Dale got behind live tweeting because the lies were coming so fast.  Anyway...

Who has seen the Neowise comet?  No?  Me either.  One of the Seattle papers had some great photos of it taken in the GPNW.

Here, the comet is heading for one of the sports stadiums in downtown Seattle.

Now it has decided to obliterate this farm house out in the wheat fields.  I guess it's wheat, when it comes to agriculture I am remarkably uninformed.  The area does remind me of the Palouse, in eastern Washington.

We went for a brief drive this afternoon.  We drove up Sentinel Peak to look at the clouds.  It looks like the bulk of the rain, if it develops, will be east of us.

The air conditioning technician came out this morning to look at the blower motor.  It's fine, it's not unusual for a power spike to cause this particular hardware to send out erroneous message #292 which says the motor has seized.  The tech said he spent all weekend in this area resetting air conditioners, and replacing those that were fried by the spike.  We had him install a surge protector on the inside segment of the HVAC.  The outside has one, inside didn't.  It's cheap insurance.  We may get one put on the mini split, as well.

Now I have to talk about the orange administration.  Click away now if you're tired of it.

Today, NYT had an article about hospital data reporting is shifting from going to the CDC, where it has always gone, to HHS.  CDC is relatively independent.  HHS is not.  So, if you notice the statistics looking better in the near future, it's because HHS is massaging the data.  They will, you know they will.  I'm very irritated with NYC putting the article in the Live Updates section because it will continue to be pushed down by new updates and will eventually become not findable.  I don't understand why it's not a stand alone article with a giant headline.  I have extracted part of it, below.
The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, beginning on Wednesday, send all coronavirus patient information to a central database in Washington — a move that has alarmed public health experts who fear the data will be distorted for political gain.
The new instructions are contained in a little-noticed document posted this week on the Department of Health and Human Services’ website, Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports. From now on, H.H.S., and not the C.D.C., will collect daily reports about the patients that each hospital is treating, how many beds and ventilators are available, and other information vital to tracking the pandemic.
“Centralizing control of all data under the umbrella of an inherently political apparatus is dangerous and breeds distrust,” said Nicole Lurie, who served as assistant secretary for preparedness and response under former President Barack Obama. “It appears to cut off the ability of agencies like C.D.C. to do its basic job.”
The shift grew out of a tense conference call several weeks ago between hospital executives and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.
After Dr. Birx complained that hospitals were not adequately reporting their data, she convened a working group of government and hospital officials who devised the new plan, according to Janis Orlowski, chief health care officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges, who participated.
This is really bad, really really bad.  I don't know where all of the data aggregators like the Johns Hopkins dashboard get their numbers, but I will bet that much of it is from CDC.
Update to post, a better link to the above.

Back to the Rose Garden press conference.  That was a Hatch Act violation of the first water.  He is not allowed to campaign on federal property.  It's against the law.  Too bad we don't have a functioning DOJ to tell him to knock it off.  Apparently he was more unhinged than usual.  He said that if Biden is elected, we won't have windows anymore.  Offices also won't have air conditioning or heat.  I've linked to the windows clip if you would like to see the tenor of the event.

Another clip from yesterday is linked here.  In this clip he's threatening an unnamed senator for having been in a compromising position.  When you're watching it, keep looking at Kushner's face.  The side eye he gave the orange one is really good.

Other than this, we have not much to report.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Clouds and Coyotes

After it quit raining last night we had some pretty clouds.  It was also unbelievably hot.  Usually when it rains like that the temperature drops, but not yesterday.  I guess it's global climate change.

This is looking west, you can see lower puffy clouds with the sun on them, darker rain clouds foreground and virga to the right.

I like this photo because you can see the demarcation of where rain is falling and where it is not.

Eventually there was some color in the sky.

The camera on my cell phone is really terrible, my camera is very old.  How old is it?  It can't run GPS anymore because the operating system has not been updated in five years.  How sad is that?  It gives you an idea of how much I hate buying cell phones.  Anyway, these are terrible pictures, but I didn't want the coyote to bolt and run before I could get Jim's phone.  We were out on the bikes veeeerryy early.

The coyote is digging, the ground is damp and cool from last night.

Now he's rolling.  He ended up on his back with his feet in the air, but my phone mangled that shot.

Today the orange man had another one of those meetings where they go around the table and everyone says why they are so happy to be in the presence of such majesty.  Afterwards, orange addressed the press in his normal, jovial demeanor.  And then he said this about testing.  If you want to listen to the footage, to make sure I'm not making this up, go here.  I think this has to be one of the most deranged things he has said.  Although later in his speaking, he did say that he had created the oil industry.  That was interesting.

Jim and I went to the grocery store this afternoon.  Two people in the store were not masked, the rest were.  We're noticing that people will wait for other people to clear the area they want to be in.  No one was hovering by my elbow in the produce department.

Sunday, July 12, 2020


It's HOT!  It was 108 before noon.  We were out briefly cleaning up debris from last night's attempt at monsoon.  Yesterday was interesting, and hot.  Around 2:45 there was a power hit, and the air conditioning stopped working.  Yep, second hottest day of the year and the a/c was off.  It was showing an error code for a mechanical fault in the blower motor.  After 30 minutes, it started working again.  I guess the power excursion caused it to show a bad error code, mechanical stuff doesn't generally fix itself.  About 7 pm we had two more drops in the power.  If that happens when the TV is on, then the TV starts yelling at us during the reboot cycle.  It's weird, it's a computer generated voice, and all of the spaces between words are taken out, making her difficult to understand.  Fortunately, the reboot almost always finishes without human intervention.  Then about 8 pm we got a really strong straight line wind from the east, 15 minutes of a torrential downpour, followed by about half a hour of lightning and then it quit.  

We were lucky, this morning 12,000 people were out of power.  Trees were down and there was some localized flooding.  We're at the tip of the arrow, and were not in the areas affected by power outages.

The vegetable matter in the entry way is always amusing.  The wind comes from the east, hits the wall that goes around the yard, and makes a sharp left under the gate and in to the entry way.  That is a mix of bougainvillea petals, leaves from next door, and palm tree bits.

A dove on the agave.  They really like that flower spike.

Last night I was staring out of the front window when movement caught my eye.  It was a coyote sniffing the front gate.  He sniffed and then left.

The orange man took himself to Walter Reed yesterday for a photo op.  Ostensibly he was visiting wounded soldiers.  These would be the same soldiers that Putin is paying the Taliban to kill.  Anyway, he wore a mask.  However, he just could not do it correctly.  It's just sad.

Today I have a sore throat, and my temperature is 98.6, normally I'm 97.6, so of course I am flipping out wondering if I have the plague.  I still have my sense of smell, so that's good.  There will be no going to the hospital for us, they're full.  Recent Covid-19 patients are being kept in the hallways and the ER so there is zero point in it.  I did order more batteries for the thermometer, just in case.  I read somewhere that you can't buy roller skates anymore, people looking for exercise during the pandemic have sucked them all up.  So, no bicycles, hand weights, home gyms, thermometers, flour, sugar or wheeled shoes.  Now we'll know what to hoard when the latest swine flu gets here from China.

Welp, all of our cleanup was for naught.  There's thunder in the distance, the wind is up, and leaves are flying through the air.

There was rain.  This is the water coming off the shed roof that covers the patio.