Friday, January 29, 2021

Vaccine Confusion

The California Vaccine Dashboard says that Alameda County is currently administering about 8,000 doses per day.

Since both the current vaccines require 2 doses, this means the county is effectively vaccinating 4,000 people per day.

Since Alameda County population is approximately 1.6 million, this means that it will take 400 days to vaccinate 100% of the population, which means we might get there by March 1, 2022.

That's still a long ways away.

On the other hand, the state dashboards also show that Alameda County is currently experiencing about 500 new COVID-19 cases per day.

So for every new case of COVID-19, eight other people are getting protected.

That's something to be happy about.

But 8,000 doses administered a day. It. Just. Seems. To. Be. Taking. So. Long.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

More vaccine confusion

The California Vaccines Dashboard doesn't make it super easy to see the progress of vaccination as, say, a graph showing the numbers day-by-day would.

But just by eyeballing the numbers each day, it seems to me that California is currently administering 120,000+ doses per day, which is double the 60,000 daily doses that the state was administering just a week ago.

Clearly the state can't double its dose delivery every week.

But if we could just double the dose delivery one or two more times, so that we were up to, say, 400,000 doses per day, we'd be able to vaccinate the state by June.

Meanwhile, a question: as of today, the state has had 3,153,186 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and has administered 2,587,736 vaccination doses. When will doses administered exceed confirmed cases? Will it be in January?

My prediction is that it will occur on Feb 2, and that on that day we'll see 3,250,000 confirmed cases, and 3,300,000 doses administered.

The Corner Refuge Island comes to the Island

Over the past decade, the city of Alameda has been working steadily to improve its bike-friendliness.

Bike-friendly cities are not unusual in California; the college towns of Davis and Santa Barbara are perhaps the best known , but there are lots of others.

But here's a fascinating article about the latest steps being taken closer to (my) home: Eyes on the Street: Alameda’s First Fully Protected Intersection.

Alameda will soon join the ranks of cities with a fully built out, Dutch-style protected intersection. Construction is well underway at Otis and Grand, a previously notorious junction.

A big part of the new design is the use of a Corner Refuge Island, which is certainly not new to Alameda. Refuge Islands have been popping up all over The Island City over the past few years, most notably along the state beach but in many other locations as well.

The StreetsBlog page points to a City of Alameda page where most of the details are spelled out: Otis Drive Traffic Safety Improvements.

The StreetsBlog page also embeds a very clear video explaining the concept, from Nick Falbo's

We had only been living in Northern California for a few years when Critical Mass began. At the time, there was an often-tense mixture of consciousness raising and confrontational agitation for change. I have close friends who participated in Critical Mass, for many good reasons, even though they later abandoned that effort.

It seems in a way a shame that it has taken three decades to get from the point where people had to stage protests and demonstrations in order to get attention to these problems, but on the other hand taking the positive perspective: look how far things have come in just three decades!

Now the announcement of significant traffic pattern changes to favor a bicycle-friendly and pedestrian-friendly way of life is barely noticed, receiving more nods of acceptance and understanding than frowns of antagonism.

The particular section of the city is about out of my regular bicycle range from my house, but someday I will make a trip over there and enjoy using the Corner Refuge Island myself.

This is going to be a big winter storm

The weather predictions (yeah, I know) are suggesting that, essentially, the entire Sierra Nevada range, from Donner Pass all the way down to almost as far south as Kernville, is going to get at least four feet of snow over the next 96 hours, with the heart of the Sierras getting significantly more than that.

And most of the Central Coast, from Big Sur down to Los Padres, should see from seven to ten inches of rain during that same period of time.

Stay safe, everyone, and let's let Mother Nature fill up the reservoirs for next spring.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Stormy Weather: a very short review

As was the case with the other Jiles novels I have read, Stormy Weather is a novel of strong women in hard times.

In this case, our heroine is Jeanine Stoddard, who had the bad luck to become a teenager just as the Great Depression arrived. Soon her family have become migrants, traveling from town to town as their father tries to find work.

They lose jobs, lose housing, lose belongings, make do with less and then still less, and then things start to get really bad, until Stormy Weather reaches a point where so many heart-breaking tragedies have been visted upon the Stoddards that I actually put the book down for a while to rest.

And then I picked it back up, and I am so glad I did.

Jeanine and her sisters don't just endure hardships, they triumph over them. She looks adversity in the mouth, gives it a swift punch in the chops, and somehow finds a way through it.

It's interesting to read a book about the Great Depression during the pandemic years of 2020-2021. And it's particularly interesting when it's an extremely well-written book, such as Stormy Weather. We, in our modern times, know only a little about the Great Depression. It wasn't so long ago, but it is now long enough in the past that most of us don't hear about the Great Depression from our grandparents or some other relatives who lived through it firsthand. Rather, people like me learn about the Great Depression from authors like Agee, or Steinbeck, or Dos Passos.

Perhaps Jiles is not yet ready to be classed among these, but Stormy Weather is beautiful and vivid in its own plain-spoken, blunt, direct manner:

So they began to make their lives there, throughout the fall and winter of 1937. They tried to piece their lives together the way people draw maps of remembered places; they get things wrong and out of proportion, they erase and redraw again. From the radio they heard of people dying in the dust storms just to the north of them, in Oklahoma and the Panhandle. That Gloria Vanderbilt was reduced to dressmaking for a living. Of the faraway rich with more money than there ever was in the world while men starved and had no work and women starved and worked both, of strikes at the textile mills in Rhode Island and all the people going to California to pick peas or whatever there was to pick. But the Hamilton clock seemed to tell only of their own long hours of labor against the dust and the drought. They were in the midst of the Dirty Thirties, and that decade's modish obsession with important people in far places, with gangsters and movie stars and oil barons and swing bands. It was easy to feel themselves invisible and empty of significance, to forget that behind every human life is an immense chain of happenstance that includes the gravest concerns; murder and theft and betrayal, great love; lives spent in burning spiritual devotion and others in miserly denial; that despite the supposed conformity of country places there might be an oil field worker who kept a trunk of fossil fish or a man with a desparate stutter who dreamed of being a radio announcer, a dwarf with a rivet gun or an old main on a rooftop with a telescope, spending her finest hours observing the harmonics of the planetary dance.

I'm sure it is easy, if you set out to write a book about the Great Depression, to want to write about "important people in far places," and to forget that the Depression was really about people who were "invisible and empty of significance."

Jiles is fully aware that the way you tell the stories of great events, such as the Civil War (Enemy Women) or the opening of the western frontier (News of the World) or the Great Depression (Stormy Weather), is to tell the stories of the ordinary people who inhabited these places and times. As she reveals in an afterword, the ordinary people in Stormy Weather, like those in Enemy Women and News of the World, were in fact her own ancestors, and the strength and honesty of her writing comes directly from the strength and honesty of these people, doing what they had to in the situations in which they found themselves.

And, somehow, though hard work, patience, effort, and a fair bit of that thing we call luck, such people find joy, as they always do:

This turned the conversation toward marriage in general. They waited out the dust storm that was hammering against the steel sides of the drive shed by giving their opinions on marriage during a time of Depression and drought and dust storms. And a very short man said that no matter what happened in the world people got married. It didn't have anything to do with what the weather was like or if you had any money or not, people just went and got married. Another man said that a war was coming and here this boy was in the service, that was something you had to keep in mind. He could get sent to some aerodrome in a foreign country. But the short man said it didn't matter about wars, either. It was the damnedest thing. He didn't know what would matter, anywise.

And, for me, this is what made Stormy Weather a near-perfect book for me to read during the dark days of the winter of 2020.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Vaccine confusion -- 5 years until Californians are vaccinated?

Dr. Erica Pan of the California Department of Public Health says that the state is only receiving about 50,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine a day: Vaccinating Californians 65 and older could take until June, likely delaying rollout to other groups.

The current pace could change if the federal government speeds up shipments beyond the current rate of 300,000 to 500,000 doses each week, Pan said.

There are 40 million people in California.

Each person needs 2 doses of vaccine.

At 50,000 doses a day, it will take 1,600 days to vaccinate all of California.

That's 5 years.

Oh, dear.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The port of Long Beach is full?

I wandered into this interesting story on the site: Inside California’s colossal container-ship traffic jam.

It sounds like there's a two part problem: lots of cargo wants to arrive in the port, and onshore cargo processing is significantly slowed down by COVID impacts in Southern California.

In an alert to customers this week, carrier Hapag-Lloyd reported, “All terminals [at Los Angeles/Long Beach] continue to be congested due to the spike in import volumes and [this] is expected to last until February.

“Terminals are working with limited labor and split shifts,” it said, asserting that this is related to COVID. “This labor shortage affects all terminals’ TAT [turnaround time] for truckers, inter-terminal transfers and the number of daily appointments available for gate transactions and delays our vessel operations.”

Monday, January 18, 2021

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and One Night in Miami: two very short reviews

Over my holidays, I watched two very interesting movies.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, airing on Netflix, is set in the 1920's, and tells the story of a day when Ma Rainey and her band spent the day at a recording studio in Chicago, recording their newest album.

Ma Rainey herself was a famous blues singer and her records from the 1920's are justly treasured. The movie, though, is not really about music, and not really very much about Rainey herself. The primary plot arc of the movie involves one of her band members, a young musician with ambition, hopes, and dreams to become a star entertainer on his own.

The movie is an adaptation of a famous stage play by August Wilson, and the movie makers decided to use a very "stage-like" production, so you really feel like you're sitting in the theater watching the play in person. At times that is distracting but overall the result is tremendous.

One Night in Miami, airing on Amazon, is set in the 1960's, and tells an imagined story of what might have happened later at night after Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight world champion in boxing.

After the match, instead of drinking and dancing all night long, Clay convinces his guests, NFL superstar Jim Brown and singer Sam Cooke, to join him as he makes a trip to a nearby hotel room to visit Malcom X. As the movie portrays it, this was the night that Clay agreed to follow Malcom X and join the Nation of Islam church; soon afterward he would change his name to Muhammad Ali.

Although the lead characters of the movie are athletes and entertainers, the movie has very little singing and very little sports. It's really a movie that, for large long parts, is four guys sitting around in a quiet hotel room at night, talking about their lives and about what lies ahead.

But those discussions are as gripping and mesmerizing as you can possibly imagine. Brown and Cooke are both struggling to understand why Clay has made this decision, and the resulting conversations are deep and heartfelt.

We're only just a few weeks into 2021, but one thing I can already say is that you should not be lacking for fine cinema entertainment. Both these movies are very much worth your time.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

I wonder if the Lavarand at Cloudflare HQ is still running

As I approach the one year anniversary of when I stopped going into San Francisco every weekday, I find myself wondering what has changed about SoMa, and what is still the same.

For example, one of my regular mid-day walks used to take me past the Cloudflare HQ down by the ballpark, where I would walk past their lobby Lavarand installation.

I believe it wasn't just for show, though certainly it was an interesting piece of art, so I assume that it's still running.

Anybody happen to know?

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Why are the US not taking advantage of the AstraZenica/Oxford COVID vaccine?

It is proving extremely effective in the UK, and is cheap and much easier to distribute and administer than the alternatives.

I am confused by this.

Good news for bad times

In these awful dreadful days, let me shine a bit of light: the best financial reporter in the world, belay that, one of the best writers on ANY subject in the world right now, the wonderful Matt Levine, has returned from paternity leave and is publishing again!

Friday, January 8, 2021

Perhaps the U.S. is listening to the wise Canadians

CNN are reporting that, on January 20th, the US will switch to the First Doses First allocation policy.

May it be so.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

If I ever do get around to reading Dorothy Sayers...

... I suspect I ought to read her with Bill Peschel as a guide: The Wimsey Annotations

Actually, maybe this is a good goal for 2021: read some Sayers!

Tirimo's Complete Beethoven Piano Works

Ah, there is no better way to start a New Year than with new music!

Actually, rather old music in this case, though newly-recorded: Complete Piano Works

I can't possibly tell you everything about this boxed set -- there are 16 CDs after all!

Tirimo, on the other hand, is probably known to all, though I am just learning about him. He is a Cypriot who spent much of his youth training in Italy, as I understand it.

The recordings are beautiful.

It will be just fine to give my old Brendel sonatas set a rest for a while, and spend some quality hours with Mr. Tirimo and his beautiful renditions of the most beautiful music ever written (sorry messrs Bach, Mozart, etc., but I'm with Schroeder on this one :) ).

Monday, January 4, 2021

Solutions and Other Problems: a very short review

What seems like an eternity ago, but was actually just 12 years ago, I was utterly enthralled by Allie Brosh's blog-turned-Internet-comic-strip-turned-(eventually)-book, Hyperbole and a Half.

I read it eagerly, re-read it even more eagerly, raved about it to colleagues, friends, family, went back months later to re-read parts even again. And when it became a book, read that, too.

I couldn't wait for her to write more.

Then: nothing.

Years passed, a decade passed, I had completely forgotten about her work when up popped a notice somewhere saying that I could order her new book: Solutions and Other Problems.

So, naturally, I did. And, just at the holidays, it arrived.

Putting aside at least half a dozen other books that were ahead of it on the stack, I flew through Solutions and Other Problems like someone possessed.

So, what can I tell you?

Firstly, this is a heavy book.

I mean literally it is heavy! It is over 500 pages, printed on beautiful heavy glossy paper, to highlight Brosh's continually fascinating artwork, and the book must weigh at least 3 pounds.

But also, and more importantly, this is a heavy book.

A quick survey of some of the topics covered by the stories in Solutions and Other Problems:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stalking
  • Loneliness
  • Self-image
  • Divorce
  • Death

Uh, yeah, really.

The thing is, I can't really think of anyone else who could pull this off like Brosh does. When I search for words to describe what she's done in her art, I come up with words like: clarity, honesty, truth, vision, insight.

This is probably not the sort of book to read on a dark, gray, rainy day.

Or maybe it is? After all, I did, and I loved it!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Yellowstone (Series): a very short review

I was sufficiently intrigued by Yellowstone to give it a try. It's a big-budget epic about the Modern West, with Kevin Costner leading a star-studded cast. It took a long time to finally watch it, though, because although I put it on my queue in April 2020, Netflix kept reporting "Very Long Wait". Disk One eventually did arrive, though.

Anyway, we made it through most of Episode One and gave up. It's a strange marriage of the lyricism of Longmire, the soap opera grandness of Dallas, and the grittiness of Justified, with NONE of the charms of any of those wonderful shows.

There. Now you know what you need to know.