Category Archives: News

power failures

Expected first vaccine date WA: July (50% vaccinated)

About ten years ago, we had what I characterized at the time as a “stiff breeze” here in Seattle.  The wind didn’t strike me as particularly exceptional compared to what I was used to in Virginia and other places I’d lived.  Certainly, it wouldn’t register in a place like Texas.  However, here in Seattle, most of the powerlines were above ground and they didn’t bother to trim the trees around the powerlines.

As a result of this moderate wind, I, like millions of others, lost power for five days.  High temperatures were in the low 30s, and it was late December, so we had maybe seven hours of daylight a day.  By the second day, my house was in the 30s, and it stayed that way.  I had no candles or flashlights or anything.  It. was. awful.  Many people actually lost power for much longer – for up to three weeks.

I was absolutely furious.  Absolutely.  Fucking.  Furious.  Why wasn’t Seattle robust to a moderate windstorm?  Something I wouldn’t have even characterized as a windstorm if it happened in Virginia?  Something that wouldn’t have caused power loss where I grew up because powerlines are, sensibly, underground?

I am reminded of this reading the fury of my friends and relatives who are Texans.  Texas is a much bigger more populous place than the Seattle area, so more people are affected, but the theme seems the same.  What should be a fairly routine weather event, colder than usual temperatures, causes utter chaos and misery.

For me, what separates a developed country from the third world is reliable power and potable water.

I would just like to pitch to ALL my friends, wherever you live, that you consider purchasing a kerosene heater.  This is one that looks identical to mine.  I bought mine after the power loss debacle.  I swore I would never be that cold again.  Even if you have backup gas heat, like we do now, it is really important to have another backup, because gas can also fail.  (If we have an earthquake, I’m sure gas will fail.)  So if you don’t have a woodstove AND wood, a kerosene heater is a fantastic option.  When my furnace failed a few years after the power loss incident and it took a week to get replaced (in winter), that little kerosene heater did a fabulous job of keeping my house livable.  This was my 1200 sq ft house, but even in a larger house, it’ll keep the heat level tolerable in a large living area.   I also have several of these lanterns.  We have regular power outages around here (which continues to infuriate me, incidentally).  These lanterns are awesome for providing light.

With all that being said, I think it’s somewhat reasonable that Texas not be fully robust to a weather event that occurs every thirty years.  However, the “rolling” power outages don’t seem to be rolling at all.  Some people are not losing power at all, or only for a few hours total, while others are losing in for several consecutive days.  If they could maintain three hours on and three hours off for everyone, or one hour on, two hours off for everyone, people would be able to maintain safe, if uncomfortable housing temperatures.   In Seattle, there were 18 deaths due to the wind power outage (due to cold and unsafe attempts to heat houses.)  It’s not OK for people to be without power for days on end.  It IS OK, I think, once a decade or two to have intermittent power for a day or three.  Don’t even get me started on the water loss, though.

Last thoughts: a big reason for this debacle is that many Texan homes are heated by heat pumps.  I had one growing up.  Heat pumps are crazily inefficient at low temperatures.  Electricity demand goes up not by 20% when temperatures drop by ten degrees, but by an order of magnitude.  In Virginia, we ALWAYS had a backup heat source to our heat pump – either a wood stove, kerosene, or propane.  You wouldn’t think that would be necessary in Texas, but I guess it is.  There’s been an argument about whether wind or natural gas is to blame, but I think that’s kind of missing the point.  If people in Texas heated their homes with natural gas rather than electricity, the demand would have risen proportionally rather than exponentially as the temperature dropped, and the system would have had to deal ONLY with the impact of cold on power generation, instead of the double whammy of supply drop and demand skyrocketing.  In WA, they are starting to ban gas heating and require electrical heating instead.  I’ve always been opposed because of my experience growing up with a heat pump in VA.  (We had a heat pump rather than gas because gas was not available on our mountain.)  Watching the TX debacle makes me even more opposed.

A couple plots to ponder:

This plot shows two things.  First, wind went offline first.  Second, the increase in demand on gas no doubt contributed to the failure of that system.  Could the gas supply have coped with a 45% increase in demand rather than a 450% increase in demand?  Again, I think the nonlinear increase in demand on the system, especially on gas, was undoubtedly a huge part of the problem.

Again, another plot showing the huge increase in gas demand, failure of wind, and then the drip in gas, which was the harbinger of system failure.

One more plot:

a note of optimism, for a change

Anticipated vaccination: September ’21

Today has been a red letter day.

1.) New president  (I have become incredibly cynical in the few years, but even I can’t help but feel a bit hopeful.)

2.) My Dad has an appointment to get the vaccine Sunday.  He is incredibly high risk, so this is a relief.  My Mom made it happen – can’t wait until she can get it as well.

That is all.

on repeat

Anticipated vaccination date: 0.7 years / October 2021

Washington has one of the lowest death rates.  Unfortunately, that also implies we have one of the lowest infection rates, which further implies one of the lowest immunity rates.  So, my prediction is that in October 2021 + 30 days for the second dose, only 55% of the population will be immune.  (Probably less since lots of people won’t get the second dose and many of the people in the first group, long-term care residents, will die from other causes.)  Fauci says we need 85% of people to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, and while I don’t really believe that, unless herd immunity implies no one gets sick ever, it seems like 50% is probably not going to cut it.  New York state, which, along with NJ, remains the hardest hit, probably has 30 to 40% immunity due to infection, and they’re still going strong with infections.  I find it disappointing how little discussion there is in the newspapers about the likely infection rate in the hardest hit states – NY, NJ, and MA – and how that has or has not impacted ongoing infection levels, as compared to the least-affected states – VT, ME and OR (excluding HI and AK for obvious reasons).  I would love to see more discussion about why New Jersey and Massachusetts were hit so much harder than Vermont.  They are right next door!  Why did New York do so much worse than Virginia?  NY’s per capita death rate is more than three times higher than Virginia’s.  Why?

Meanwhile, S Dakota has received a lot of flak for its handling of the epidemic (despite still lagging behind NY and other states for death rate), but they’ve managed to use 70% of the vaccines they’ve received and vaccinate more 5% of their population, as compared to WA, which has only used 33% of its vaccines and vaccinate 2.5%.  You can read more about WA’s vaccination debacle thus far here.

I honestly didn’t mean to get on here and rant more about Covid, but I just can’t seem to help myself.

What I’ve been playing on repeat lately:

2021

Anticipated vaccination date: 1.4 years / June 2022

So far, 2021 has sucked.

1.) My uncle died on 1/1.

2.) We are experiencing record Covid deaths, with an excruciatingly slow pace of vaccination.

3.) Saoirse cut her finger due to my negligence.  Blood gushed everywhere, and we almost went to the ER.  (Arranged a babysitter, etc., before we finally got the bleeding stopped and our pediatrician recommended staying home.)

4.) Attempted insurrection at the White House.

I mean, it’s only 1/9.

It will be interesting to see if the impeachment succeeds.  There is no doubt it’s justified this time.  (I felt the last impeachment was political theater, not justified, and in general, bad form.)  I will honestly be encouraged and hopeful for our future if it succeeds.  We’ll see.  I can’t imagine that he would run again, but stranger things have happened.  The best thing about impeachment would be preventing a future run and diminishing or eliminating his role in the party going forward.

We attempted to go play in the snow at the pass today, drove 60 miles (one way) and sat in crazy traffic jams and couldn’t find a place to park.  Anywhere.  There are just way too many people here and with literally everything closed, people are dying to get outside.  So “outside” is turning into a city.  And getting off the beaten path is challenging when you have three kids, the youngest of whom is one.

anticipated vaccination

I’ve decided to start tracking anticipated time to vaccine for my husband and I, based on an expectation that we’d get it when 50% of our state has had it.  This is based on about 30% probably refusing the vaccine plus being ahead of children in line.  Obviously guesswork.  Time to vaccine is based on how many have been vaccinated and rate of vaccination in Washington state.  (Surprise, surprise, we are near the bottom in terms of both % vaccinated and % of doses received distributed.)

Update – I changed my algorithm to use a 7-day running average, which shortened the anticipated vaccination wait.

Anticipated date of vaccination: December 2021 (0.9 years from today)

I feel the country is in a very perilous situation over the next week and a half.  We are intensely vulnerable to any kind of internal or external attack.  (Obviously, we already had one internal attack.)

I am very supportive of removing Trump from office, if possible, but if it is not possible, then Democrats should resist the urge to grandstand and, for the love of God, be pragmatic.   Pragmatism over self-righteousness and scoring political points, please.  (I know even asking for this is futile.  In this desperate time, politicians of both parties will likely still be more concerned about their personal political futures and their party than the American people.)

I should add that I think Trump should go to prison for this, but I believe the process to make that happen is completely unconnected from the process to remove him from office.

While I understand the urge of the various members of the cabinet to resign, I’m also not sure that’s the right step.  We need to continue running this country and protecting its citizens against chaos and foreign attack until Biden can take office.  That can’t happen if there is no cabinet.

Counting the days.

two more weeks

Two. More. Weeks.

A lot of people are saying they’re not surprised by what happened tonight, including my husband.  I guess I must be naïve, because I am not only surprised, I am shocked.  (And horrified.)

Those voting against the results of the American election in Pennsylvania were: Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ted Cruz of Texas, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Rick Scott of Florida.

Those voting against the results of the American election in Arizona were: Mr. Hawley, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Tuberville, Ms. Hyde-Smith, Mr. Marshall and John Kennedy of Louisiana.

Take note of those names.  Are you a resident of one of those states?  Can we get rid of these guys?  Is that possible?  Democrats just took Georgia – not one seat, but two.  So anything is possible.

“Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy,” Mr. Romney said.

In the House, Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, received his own standing ovation from Democrats as he outlined why he would not object.

“That vote may sign my political death warrant,” Mr. Roy declared. “But so be it.”

I’d like to think that the Democrats took Georgia in part because many people in that state, both Republican and Democrat, were swayed by Trump’s unacceptable behavior since the election.

For me, our political system feels like an unstable control system, with the social media echo chamber being the factor that increased the gain and pushed things over the edge.

Political rant

I am sick to death of the Democrats.  I am sick of the grandstanding (impeaching Trump), threats to change our Democratic process because it doesn’t favor them (pack the Supreme Court, get rid of the electoral college), sick of the ancients running the party.  I am sick of living in a one-party state, where Democrats control the executive, the legislature, and the judges decade after decade.  I am tired of the identity politics.  I am above all disgusted by the low priority placed on children and education during the pandemic, a prioritization which will most greatly increase income inequality, income disparity and opportunity gap between races, and just generally hurt the poor and marginalized.

I am ready to vote Republican.

But I just can’t.  Leave it to the Republicans to one-up the Democrats by a significant margin for being terrible, awful people.  Are there any good politicians out there?  I can’t bring myself to read the articles about what is basically a coup attempt on Trump’s and his cronies’ parts, but I will never, ever vote for any politician associated with this in any way.  This is shameful, and I cannot believe the number of politicians supporting it.  I cannot wait until Biden is in office.  And I am in the process of renewing my passport.  Not the blue one.

I still believe in the US.  The pandemic didn’t shake my belief.  Neither did the civil rights marches and accompanying unrest.  On the contrary, I’m glad to live in one of the few countries in the world where you can actually demonstrate.  Try that in Australia!  There are young people who care enough about our country to try and make a difference!  Trump’s ridiculousness throughout his term didn’t really shake my belief.  He actually did a lot of good things which were underreported.  (It was past time to address China’s bad behavior, for example.)  But people trying to dismantle our government?  It’s a bridge too far.  We need Republicans to stand up and do the right thing.  We need Republican voters to look past the end of their nose and declare this unacceptable.  Or God help us all.