Category Archives: My life

Reflecting on masks, part N

As far as I can tell, Korea is the only country that has managed to control the Coronavirus.  Australia has managed to eliminate it but failed miserably to control it.  NZ has an easy problem, being a low population island and managed to eliminate Covid, but hasn’t attempted to control it at low levels.  Australia, at roughly the population of California and an island, still has a way easier problem than the US, but has it a lot harder than NZ.  They were unable to suppress even tiny outbreaks without resorting to the most draconian lockdowns in the world (except maybe China) for extended periods of time.  I would not call Australia a success story on the whole.

South Korea, on the other hand, has been living with the virus since the beginning.  They have never, as far as I know, eliminated it.  Their inbound traveler quarantine program appears to work, and for the most part, they have kept schools open.  What works for them?  Korea’s population is 50 million, so not insubstantial.  This is a densely populated country.  Obviously, being effectively an island helps – a lot.

However, the one thing that jumps out at me when I peruse the friends of my Korean friend on FB is that she and her family members are ALWAYS wearing KN95 masks, including their 6-year-old.  (Her 1-year-old does not wear a mask.)  It doesn’t matter if they are in some outdoor location that looks to be utterly deserted, miles from the nearest human – they are wearing KN95 masks.

I just can’t help but wonder if that’s what’s making the difference.  After all, medical personnel wear KN95 masks and manage, for the most part, to avoid contagion even when exposed to many people sick with Covid.  Of course, they often wear additional PPE as well, but still.

I’m tempted to just switch to a KN95 and look around for some that would fit my kids.  But really, while I don’t want to catch Covid myself, I really want it to go away entirely.  I keep hearing all this messaging – “Wear your mask and Covid will go away!”  I don’t know what it’s like in the rest of the country, but where I am, people are wearing masks.  Everyone wears them indoors – 100% – and my observation is that most people wear them outdoors as well.  And it’s not working.  Covid is exploding here right now.  Of course, people may be socializing in their homes without masks.  It’s hard to know.

mask recommendations

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say about the CDC and their mask guidelines.  Today, from the NYT:

Breaking from its tentative recommendations on mask use thus far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday that using masks benefits wearers, which is a step beyond its previous declaration that said wearing masks would only protect those around them.

Let us not forget that when Covid peaked in the US (which despite misleading headlines, was unambiguously during the so-called first wave), the CDC was active dissuading people from wearing masks.  At that time, it was clear to anyone with a few brain cells to rub together that it was nonsensical that (a) masks would only be beneficial in a healthcare setting and (b) that all of Asia was likely dead wrong on the topic.  How many tens of thousands of people died because of this?

The CDC finally revised their stance and started recommending masks, but their updated advice has remained a head-scratcher on two fronts:

(a) They continue to recommend “cloth face-coverings” rather than encouraging the government to ramp up productive of certified PPE.  It honestly boggles my mind.  The WHO actually put out a spec for making your own cloth mask, but it called for three, preferably four, layers and recommended different fabrics for the different layers.  People are going around in one or two layer buffs and masks made of quilting cotton.  Again.  Mind.  Boggled.

(b) They continued to state that masks protect only others, and not yourself.  While there is some intuitive support for this concept, overall, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.  And apparently, that’s because it actually doesn’t make any sense.  See updated guidance above.

Next, the King County Health Department is seriously giving me a headache.  It just came out that they have drastically underestimated the number of hospitalizations in recent weeks due to a data error.  Hospitalizations are, to me, by far the most important data metric.  They are not skewed by how much testing you’re doing and who you’re testing, and there’s no several week lag, like there is for death reports.  Instead of hospitalizations remaining flat locally, they are rising at a rapid clip.   Measures to impede the spread of COVID are ruining people’s lives and literally causing other people to die (due to failing to seek needed medical treatment and delayed “elective” surgery.)  I feel like the least the Department of Health could do would be to report the data accurately and in a timely manner.  Yet over and over again they report major errors.  It’s really unbelievable.  I feel like the governor should fire the whole lot of them and hire the SpaceX data team.

That vaccine can’t come soon enough.

Winter running attire – 2020 edition

Winter is here and with it, the joy of cool weather running.  Since I’m still doing the stay-at-home mom gig, winter running has been much warmer so far.  Running in mid-morning gives me a good ten degrees over running at the crack of dawn, as I’ve done in past years.

While a cold gray day or rain makes it a lot harder to run, I think correct attire makes all the difference.  I can’t claim to know much about running at temperatures under 30 F, but for cold, gray rainy days, I feel like I’ve got things dialed in.

1.) Start by buying an indoor-outdoor thermometer.  Everyone is different in terms of attire preferences, but the best way to dial in your own choices are to at least know how warm or cold it is.  Online weather services are often off by up to five degrees, which is huge.  I received mine as a gift, but it looks a like like this one.   At this point, we have two indoor-outdoor thermometers, and I always look at it before dressing to go running.

50 F +

If it’s not raining or extremely windy, temperatures 50 and higher, even if it’s overcast, call for shorts and short sleeves.  Since motherhood, I mostly wear tight shorts, but any kind of shorts will do.

These shorts from Lululemon are have a pocket big enough for my phone at the back of the waist (where I prefer to carry it) and side pockets on the shorts for a key.  They’re quite stretchy.

For loose shorts, I’m a fan of Zoot.

I really like these short-sleeve Nike running tops.

If it’s rainy or windy, I add gloves and/or a very lightweight headband that I can take off once I warm up.

High 40s

If the temperature is in the high 40s, I consider switching to capri tights and will generally bring along a lightweight headband.  I prefer my Capri tights short – just below the knee, ideally.  Oiselle sells a number of “knickers” that meet this spec.

If it’s windy or rainy, I’ll probably switch to a long-sleeve half-zip top.  NOT quarter-zip, not one-third zip – a full half-zip, so I can unzip it fully if I get warm, which I usually do.  One of my pet peeves if retailers selling “half zip” tops that are really quarter zip.  A half zip top should unzip at least to the midpoint between the collar bone and belly button.  I love my Sugoi half zip tops, but unfortunately, they are no longer sold.  This Lululemon top meets all my specs – tru half zip, thumb sleeves, pockets (to store gloves and headband), not too short, too tight, or too long.

Low to mid 40s

Often, in the low 40s, capri tights plus a LS half zip top, gloves, and a headband are sufficient to keep me warm. However, if it’s raining or threatening rain, I sometimes like to wear a lightweight water-resistant vest and a hat with a brim, or a visor.  (I have a different lululemon vest that’s no longer sold – mine may be a bit more lightweight than this one.  The more lightweight, the better.)  Keeping the rain off my face makes a huge difference.

Around 40 degrees

At around 41 or 42, I switch to full-length tights.  I am a fan of the Epic Lux line by Nike.  Like Lululemon and Amazon, Nike has free shipping and, crucially, free returns.  I don’t remember paying this much for my Nike tights – maybe they’ve raised their prices?  It looks like they’ve added some pockets, so they’re not quite the same as the ones I own.

If it’s raining with the temperature around 40, I like to wear a super-lightweight Gore-tex jacket without a hood.  Vents a must-have feature.  The Patagonia jacket I own is still available on eBay, and if you live in a cool rainy climate, it’s a 1000% worth it.  Note that it comes in men’s and women’s sizes, so make sure you know which you’re buying.

Near 40 degrees, I like to add a more robust headband, like this one.  It’s a couple layers and makes a big difference.

Low to mid 30s

When the weather drops into the 30s, I like to switch to Sugoi MidZero tights.  Be careful to buy *mid*zero tights, not SubZero tights, which are for much colder temperatures.   Near 30 degrees, I might add a light layer over the tights if it feels particularly chilly due to wind or something like that.

In the 30s, I switch from a headband to a hat.

We rarely have temperatures below around 30.  If it gets that cold, I just stay home.

Election day blogging

Live blogging election nights . . .

7:18 AM Thursday

Last post . . . Things are looking great for Biden, and I’m pretty confident at this point he’ll be president.

However, I must say this extended vote-counting process is ridiculous.  What’s taking so long?  Taking days or weeks to understand the outcome sows uncertainty, makes both sides worry about fraud, and is just generally dangerous.  In very close races, this might be understandable (and possibly also Alaska in the winter?), but in general, the count should be complete within 24 hours of poll closure.

In Washington state, ballots can arrive as late as November 23rd, and will be counted.  This is crazy.  I would argue that mail-in ballots should be postmarked five days in advance of election day.  After that, they can be dropped in ballot boxes.  The vast majority of ballots would then arrive by election day itself, and a reasonable margin (as week?) could be allowed to deal with any stragglers.

I’m blown away by the change in Pennsylvania.  I think it would be strongly preferable not only for Biden to win, but for him to win unambiguously, and that’s looking more likely . . . by the day.  But what is taking Pennsylvania so long to count their ballots?  They seriously need to review their methodology.

So yeah, it’s been a crazy ride with Trump in the WH the last four years.  It’s been both better and worse than I feared and hoped when Hillary lost.  I’m sure the next four years will also be better and worse than I hope and fear right now.  What does the future have in store for us?  Hopefully no more pandemics for a while.

11:02 AM PST

Here are the obvious or highly probably calls, as far as I can tell:

  • Alaska (47% counted, 63 / 33) -> Trump (+3)
  • Georgia (97% counted, 50.3 / 48.5) -> Trump (+16)
  • North Carolina (99% counted, 50.1 / 48.7) -> Trump (+15)
  • Pennsylvania (84% counted, 53.4 / 45.3) -> Trump (+20)
  • Arizona (86% counted, 51 / 47.6) -> Biden (+11)

(Source: WaPo)

That leaves us with:

Biden – 238  (227+11)

Trump – 267 (213+54)

There is one additional vote from Maine in play for Trump, bringing him potentially to 268.  The remaining states are very close but projected for Biden.  So, it still seems likely that Biden is going to win this thing, 272 – 268.

Fox news is giving Biden a 95% chance of taking Michigan and a 93% chance of taking Wisconsin.  Those seem sewn up.  That leaves only Nevada; Biden has a 70% chance of winning there.  So my current verdict is that it all comes down to Nevada.

8:44 AM PST

I think there will be some interesting discussion about polling after this, but for now, let’s just acknowledge that identifying swing states is important to the candidates, since it lets them know where to campaign.  Let’s call a swing states one with 4% or less margin between candidates.

Below is a list of swing states identified before the election by the New York Times, with those that weren’t actually swing states (per the criterion above) crossed out, and swing states not identified added below in bold.

  • Arizona (Biden +3)
  • Florida (Trump +3)
  • Georgia (Trump +1)
  • Iowa (Trump +8)
  • Maine (Biden +11, but single electoral vote could decide election)
  • Michigan (Biden +0)
  • Minnesota (Biden +8)
  • Nebraska (Trump +18, but single electoral vote could decide election)
  • Nevada (Biden +0)
  • New Hampshire (Biden +8)
  • North Carolina (Trump +1)
  • Ohio (Trump +8)
  • Pennsylvania (Trump +9)
  • Texas (Trump +6)
  • Wisconsin (Biden +1)

What is interesting for me on this list?  First, Ohio and Pennsylvania are not, as of current count, swing states, nor are they close.  Second, there are an awful lot of states with a 1 or 0 point differential –> Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.  Those five have turned out to be the crucial swing states.  Third, Republicans have lost the Southeast and made gains in the Midwest.  Fourth, Texas is still safe, but for how long?  Texas is always thought of as the reddest of red, but that will likely change in the next ten to fifteen years, if the Dems can just restrain themselves from turning into socialist radicals.

7:28 AM PST

Need to stop looking at this.

But that one Maine vote just flipped, which would give the election to Biden.  Crazy that this election may come down to MAINE.

7:06 AM PST

Things are looking better for Biden this morning.  WaPo is now showing a dead heat.  Crazy.  In a dead heat, it comes down to the House of Representatives.  It is hard to tell, but it WaPo is currently showing a projection for a slight Republican majority in the House.

I would really prefer if the House of Representatives did not choose our president, though, ironically, that’s similar to how the rest of the developed world chooses their leaders.  (Is there any successful developed nation that chooses their PM or equivalent via popular vote?  There must be one or two, I would think.)

I guess there is nothing to do but wait.

I am a big fan of mail-in voting.  However, I must say that this situation makes me believe that all mail-in ballots should be required to be postmarked one week before the election OR dropped in a ballot box.  One or the other.  Washington state only requires that mail-in ballots be received by 11/23, which is utterly ridiculous in my opinion.

10:16 PM PST

It kind of seems like Trump is going to win.  I went to bed looking at something like this four years ago, and yet still believed Hillary would win.  This time, I guess I’m expecting Trump to win.  I still think it hinges on Pennsylvania, which currently has 65% of votes counted, 56/42 for Trump.  FoxNews (the only outlet I’ve been able to find actually predicting outcomes as opposed to showing current status, as WaPo is doing below) is now giving Trump 79% odds of taking Pennsylvania.

Wow.

Biden currently, per WaPo, has a 49.7 to 48.7 lead in popular vote.  I think we’re going to have another split election.

Honest to God, I like Biden, I really do.  I think he’s a good guy.  He’s moderate, and his politics generally agree with mine.  But at 79, he just wasn’t the right choice.  Roughly half the states have Democratic governors.  Were none of those governors a more dynamic choice for Democratic candidate? Inslee is an example of someone who, much as I kind of hate him because he hasn’t done anything to reopen schools, has been a very levelheaded leader throughout this difficult time.  He did TERRIBLY in the primary.  Why did Biden do so much better than Inslee?  Why were our #2 and #3 candidates also, in my opinion, awful – Elizabeth Warren and Sanders — both extreme and both ancient.  (And I cannot get over Warren’s false claim of Native American ancestry.)  Would they have done better in this election?  Who the hell knows, but I doubt it.  If Sanders runs for president again in ’24, I swear I will go into politics myself.  And then there’s Buttigieg – good looking, young, vibrant, a vet, but for the love of God, he’s the mayor of a South Bend.  Rounding out the top five was Bloomberg.  He seems kind of sleazy, like Trump.  But Wikipedia has some nice things to say about him.

What is wrong with the primary process?  No doubt there will be calls for getting rid of the electoral college, no matter who wins.  How about we start by having a popular vote for the Democratic nominee – no more caucusing, no more letting Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina pick our candidate.  Let the people decide.  Let me have a vote.

8:19 PM PST

I was doing my usual evening trolling of international news for Covid updates, and I see that the Herald Sun of Melbourne Australia has called Florida for Trump, though per US newspapers, it’s still up for grabs (WaPo, NYTimes, Seattle Times, and WSJ).

7:53 PM PST

Honestly, it’s looking like Trump has a shot of winning this thing.  538 said that Trump had only a 10% chance of winning and Biden a 90% shot.  Last year I went to sleep with the election results showing a trend to a Trump win, but I was still certain that I would wake up to President Hillary Clinton.  How wrong I was!  This year, I don’t know what to think.  But WaPo seems to be leaning towards Trump.

Fox News, on the other hand, is giving Biden a 70% chance of taking Pennsylvania.  If Biden takes Pennsylvania, he likely takes the election.  My money is still on Biden winning this thing, but at this point, I have enough humility to say I don’t know what the hell is going to happen.

Reading the news and social media, Trump seems universally hated – though I read primarily NY Times and the Seattle Times.  And my friends are predominantly liberal.  Who are these Trump voters?  Do I know them and they are just less noisy than my Democrat friends?  Or are they people I don’t associate with?

4:57 PM PST

Now, they have called West Virginia for Trump, despite 4% of votes collected and 54% of those going to Biden.  Now, I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I am saying that after 2016’s debacle, could we please have a little more restraint?

It is interesting to me how the electoral map is shifting.  Virginia is now a solid Blue state, not even a battleground.  Prior to 2008, it was solid red and had not voted Democrat since 1964.  I wonder what changed?

4:04 PM PST

The NYT has let me down more than once.  In particular, they stated with extremely high confidence (93% to be precise) that HRC would win last time.  Their confidence arguably may have dissuaded more Democratic voters than all of Russia’s misinformation.

Nevertheless, I find myself once again turning to NYT for results.  And what do I see?  Kentucky has been called for Trump with 7% counted and a 3% differential in votes (Trump 50%, Biden 47%).  That seems odd.  Are the remaining 93% of voters that predictable?  Apparently.  But worse is Vermont.  0.0% of votes counted – “Not votes reported” – and it’s been called for Biden.  Would it really kill them to wait just a little?  Polls are still open all over the country.

Also, I’ve been taking the reports and concerns, primarily of Republicans, of fraud with a serious grain of salt, but I’m pretty sure 105% participation is nothing to brag about.  From NYT: “The turnout stood at 105 percent shortly before the polls closed at 7 p.m., with 795 ballots cast. When the voter rolls closed ahead of the election, the precinct had 754 people registered to vote there.”  It’s being reported as a success story.  Supposedly the extra people changed their address, but to me, it’s a red flag we’d be better off without.

brief risk rant

We took the kids trick-or-treating tonight, and my mind is just boggled that “experts” suggest this is not safe and suggest other obviously less safe alternatives, like *parties* in one’s backyard and other types of gatherings that feature extended contact with others.  I would say trick-or-treating was not even the most dangerous thing we did today.  I’d rank it third, after buying candy in the grocery store for other trick or treaters (We left it on our doorstep in bins for self-serve) and eating “out.”  We’ve been doing outdoor dining once a week, which I generally think is quite safe, but not as safe as trick-or-treating.

I’m just exhausted by the illogic of people relating to evaluating risk.  People have ALWAYS been terrible at evaluating risk – this is blindingly obvious when it comes to baby and child safety in particular – but it’s never had such a huge impact on so many lives.

At least the kids were cute.

Covid reflections

Ah, Covid.  Some thoughts:

1.) When things were first shut down last spring, I, and most people with a cerebral bent, asked, Won’t it just pop back up again?  Interestingly, and depressingly, this is exactly what is happening in Europe.  Apparently Bill Gates’s and everyone else’s wishful thinking is wrong, and this thing isn’t going away until we achieve herd immunity (by vaccine or infection).   This is depressing because most of the major countries in Western Europe have infection rates (as estimated by death count) comparable or higher than the US.

I started tracking European numbers more closely a few weeks ago, and the resurgence has been clear at least since at least mid-August, both in Europe and NYC.  Unfortunately, we’re now experiencing a surge in my county as well.  We are sitting ducks in the Seattle area, because due to Inslee’s over-cautious restrictions, we have no immunity of any kind.  (I estimate less than 6% of our county has been infected.)

2.) I am worried that if Biden is elected, he will attempt to impose national shutdowns.   The debate with Trump was embarrassing to watch, and Trump’s attack on Biden’s son was shameful, but I thought Trump won the most important part – the Covid discussion.  Trump has done many things wrong in managing Covid, but Biden didn’t bring up any of them.  He vaguely said he’s “listen to the science” but didn’t go into specifics.  He could have, for example, said he’d ensure domestic production of N95 masks so that every man, woman and child could go back to (nearly) normal life with appropriate PPE.

Furthermore, I think he is way too old to be president in the best of times, and particularly now.  It kind of made me a little ill when he paternalistically announced Harris’ nomination.  If she’s so great, why not step aside and let her actually run for president?  (You, too, Sanders and Warren – get out of the way of the younger generation.)  Harris is just so energetic, intelligent, vivacious and  . . . young.  She is a much better president for the Covid era than Biden.

3.)  I am continuing to follow along with what’s happening in Victoria, Australia.  For those not paying attention, they’ve been on some level of strict lockdown since this thing started.  Australia, with its secure borders and low population, actually has a prayer of kicking this thing.  But it is HARD.  With the crazy endless “don’t got more than 5 km from your house or you’ll be arrested” lockdown, they are STILL getting new cases.  They are, however, right to continue the lockdown.  Basically, you have two options – eliminate the virus, or live with it.  If you choose the latter option, you should, in my opinion, only take steps needed to protect the most vulnerable (nursing home residents and over 70s) and keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed.  If you choose the former, however, you have to completely eradicate it.  That means getting to zero community spread.  Victoria is now around 10 to 15 cases a day, but they are probably still a month out from zero, at least.  This is one case in which “open up to soon” actually means something – just a tiny number of cases can set off a huge outbreak that takes months to control.  That is why elimination is impractical for most countries.

4.) If you’re not trying to eliminate the virus, “opening up too soon” doesn’t mean much.  Basically, if your hospitals are overwhelmed, you opened up too soon.  That has only happened in a couple areas in the US, mostly New York City.  The root cause wasn’t “opening up too soon” but the stealth build of the virus before people realized it was around.

5.) I continue to think that the closure of schools is the biggest tragedy of this whole thing.  The impact on vulnerable students is impossible to predict, but it will undoubtedly be severe.  It’s shameful.  Here’s a WaPo editorial that summarizes my feelings on this.   Seattle’s big move has been to create a committee to examine equity in online learning.  Here’s a hint: it is not equitable in any way.

6.) Ireland brought its case count down to goose eggs, then opened up.  It’s hard to argue that they opened up “too soon.”  They have two major problems.  (1) An insecure border with Northern Ireland aka the UK which allows Covid to seap in from the UK, where elimination was never achieved.  In many regards, Ireland is quite similar to NZ, but NZ has secure borders.  Ireland has a group called the NPHET which is meant to recommend measures to contain Covid based on “science.”  The group recommended that the entire country go to “Level 5” which means no one can go more than 5 KM from their house.  Everything shuts down.  The government declined and went to Level 3 instead, which limits travel to work and school and says everyone must stay in their county.  (Irish counties are quite small.)   It is going to be interesting to see what direction they go in, as infections are rising quite rapidly, and I tend to agree with the NPHET that to really stop it, they’d need to do the full lockdown, but I agree with the government that this is not worth the economic impact.  However, that is the path that the US has taken, more or less, and it has seemed like Ireland was taking a more conservative approach.

7.) There has been all this discussion about Trump causing a vaccine to be released too soon.  Frankly, I’m not losing a lot of sleep over this possibility.  I’m much more concerned about (1) If we’re going to have a vaccine at all and (2) how effective it will be.  Are we getting a flu-style vaccine which will likely have fairly minimal impact?  Or are we getting a measles style vaccine which could return life to normal?  Well??  It doesn’t seem like anyone knows.