Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Tucson Road Trip

We finally got out of the house and made a road trip to visit my parents in their new home in Tucson.  it is a bit of a drive but not too bad.  The weather was hot but quite nice with cool mornings and breezes.
My parents' house backs up to Tucson Mountain park and they get quite a bit of wildlife passing by.  We saw deer, quail, coyotes and many types of birds.  They have seen bobcat and javelina as well.  We did some hikes in the park, played games and had a good time with my parents and my aunt and uncle.



Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Getting Back Outdoors

As the "curve" is getting squashed, it is time to start planning to venture out again.

What is open?

Contrary to popular beliefs and reporting, much of the California backcountry has been open albeit to various extents.  National Parks have all been pretty much closed.  Most Forest Service lands have been open to hiking but established campground and facilities have been closed.  All state lands have been closed.  County and city lands don't provide much in the way of long distance hiking so aren't a concern for this discussion.  One tricky aspect to permitting is actually getting your permit.  Inyo NF is taking reservations starting June 1 but if the ranger stations are still closed, there is no way to get your permit.  SEKI is accepting permit applications but they don't guarantee a response.  Some districts will issue permits via email so those are a safe bet.  Be sure to check the websites of the land manager where you plan to hike for the latest information.

What is safe?

Everyone has their own opinion on this (whether fact-based or not).  Andrew Skurka is putting up a great set of guidelines for judging risk and safety for backcountry outings.  Skurka is focusing on guiding groups but his principles apply for solo and Scout groups as well.  The data shows that outdoor activities is very safe, especially the farther you get from the road.  I predict coming across other folks but will have a buff for face covering as appropriate.  My current short term planning is to hike within a tank's worth of gas therefore I won't have to stop anywhere along the way between home and the trailhead.  If trends in the data continue, then I will consider dropping this restriction from summer which means getting to the Sierras.

On the trail

I don't plan on making any changes to my gear for the trail.  I will be taking extra water in the car so I don't have to fill up from municipal sources which may be closed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

COVID-19 Data

It has taken governments quite a while to get their data together and start reporting it in a meaningful way.
Here is the latest and best sources for San Diego county and California:

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Lockdown reading


  • Crashes and Crises: Lessons from a History Financial Disasters by Connel Fullenkamp
  • San Dieguito Heritage by Maura Wiegand
  • The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession and Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Andrew Lawler
  • Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape Our Universe by Martin Rees
  • Aircraft Carriers Vol. 2: 1946 - 2005 by Norman Polmar
  • Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition by Buddy Levy

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Something I agree with SANDAG on

After a dysmal job report, SANDAG Chief Economist Ray Major had this to say:
"The reality is that hundreds of thousands of San Diegans have lost their primary source of income," said SANDAG Chief Economist Ray Major. "We hope this report gives regional leaders a broad understanding of the impacts and will help in developing protocols to allow people to safely return to work and restart the region's economy."
I agree completely.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

San Diego County COVID-19 Metrics

As governments say they are going to use science and data to tell them when to restore our rights, very few have the guts to actual share with us what data and metrics they are using.  For example, the governor of California has release a set of guidelines with no actual measurements.  I tried exchanging emails with a state government staffer but did not get a response on how these metrics are to be met.
But San Diego County health director Dr. Wilma Wooten has taken the time to enlighten the masses on the county's metrics and her take on the state's.  Kudos to Dr. Wooten.  The following is copied from the San Diego Union.  I am not just linking because I don't want it to disappear (my comments in red):

Federal recommendations:
  • Log a downward trajectory of influenza-like illness reported within a 14-day period: Met — In the last 30 days, the percentage of emergency department visits for influenza-like illnesses has dropped from 10 percent on March 16 to 3 percent on April 15.
  • Log a downward trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period: In progress — Since April 4, the trend has varied.
    These first two bullets are very similar although I am not really sure why the difference matters.  It is much better to track actual cases of the people with the disease then just test results.
  • Log a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases OR a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests within a 14-day period: Met — Since April 6, the county has seen a downward trajectory in the percentage of positive cases.
    Very important to make this not just a function of the number of tests given and even better to see it trend down.
  • Have the ability to treat all patients without crisis care: Met
    Hospitals have plenty of room right now due their hard work. But one side effect is that people needed "non-essential" procedures are having to wait and many of these are truly worthwhile and not frivolous.  Also, hospitals are losing revenues as they sit under-utilized adding to the economic distress.
  • Establish a robust testing program for at-risk health care workers, including antibody testing: In progress — The county has created a testing task force to increase the region’s testing capacity.
    Why health care workers aren't first in line is beyond me.  Latest reports have the county up to 3000 tests per day but many testing facilities are reportedly under-utilized.  Hopefully the task force can get things going faster.
Notice how the federal recommendations have actual measurable metrics.  Now contrast this with the state...
 
State recommendations:

  • The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing and isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed: County officials are continuing to increase the region’s testing capacity, which now sits at more than 3,000 tests per day. Officials have also created a testing task force and an action plan to increase contact tracing. More than 1,700 hotel rooms have been obtained to help isolate people who contract the virus, and a University of California San Diego dorm stands at the ready to house COVID-19 patients on the mend.
    The ability to do something is much different than the actual implementation and results.  How about use some under-utilized state employees (or the unemployed) and have them work on manual contact tracing.
  • The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19: Health officials already strongly recommend that people stay at home if they are older than 65, have chronic medical conditions or have a compromised immune systems. The county is also prioritizing testing for vulnerable populations, hospitalized patients, people in long-term care facilities, health care workers, and essential workers like first responders.
    One of the few hard facts about COVID-19 is that the elderly and those in poor health are greatest at risk.   Again, the ability is there to monitor those that are better off staying home.  How about using under-utilized state employees to check up on these folks.
  • The ability of hospital and health systems to handle surges: Health officials said the number of hospitalizations is decreasing and there are enough beds, staff members and supplies to go around.
  • The ability to develop therapeutics to meet demand: County officials aren’t working on this one at this time.
    Does these mean we need to have effective treatment and in some quantity or that we just have to be working on it?
  • The ability for businesses, schools and child care facilities to support physical distancing: The region’s health order mandates physical distancing in these facilities and requires that social distancing and sanitation protocols be posted at all open businesses. A newly created economic advisory group is working on specific plans to help businesses reopen.
    Done.  Every place I go to has this figured out, except the wide open areas like beaches are deserts for some reason.
  • The ability to determine when to reinstitute measures, such as stay-at-home orders, if necessary: County health officials are continuously monitoring numbers related to the COVID-19 pandemic and are working on determining specific criteria for increasing or decreasing restrictions.
    It would be nice to have a way to figure when you are going to imprison your population and destroy the economy but that might be too much to ask.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Don't Rely on Government Bailouts

Why?  Thy government does not care about you unless you happen to be a Wall Street insider or big bank or big corporation.  How can you tell?  Here are some reasons:
The small business loan programs ran out of money in days.  Much of the paltry amount of money they had to start with went to big companies who are now being shamed into giving some back.  I have not heard of the Fed running out money yet (mainly because they create it out of thin air).
The government thinks you can live on $1200 for a indefinite period of time after they took your job away.  Not only is that amount of money insulting, it is taking the IRS months to dole it out, that is if you can figure all the rules attached to it.  The Fed, by contrast, can get billions to any one of its cronies in seconds and its programs are detailed in short little memos.
What's great is all this is in plain sight.  There is no conspiracy, nothing is being hidden.  The fact is, most Americans don't care, don't understand and think the government is out to help them so they aren't outraged.
Lets take a closer look into one of the new Fed programs as an example.  The "Primary Dealer Credit Facility" (PDCF) is a program started to "support the credit needs of American households and businesses."  That is a direct quote and not something from the Onion.  Keep in mind that a Primary Dealer is the exact opposite of  an American households or business.  The dealers are the banks that the Fed does direct business with; the list is very short and does not include you and I.  Next, Read the memo (pdf) that describes the "terms".    Don't worry, its only 2 pages long with lots of white space. This document effectively states the Fed will buy a bunch of the dealer's debt (except for foreign currency backed debt) for an unspecified amount of time (it actually says 6 months with the caveat "or longer, if conditions warrant").  Nothing in here says anything about how this helps American households or business.  It is basically a way for big banks to unload crappy debt onto taxpayers.  This program is like the king giving gold to his nobles and expecting them to hand it out to their serfs.  This is just one of several programs cooked up to "help" the American people.  Feel free to peruse them, they are all basically the same.
As a libertarian, I don't think it is the governments job to promote business and hand out free money.  But when you compare the handouts to bank to those to regular people it makes you wonder what side they are on. I guess Ron Paul is right.
What the government should do (and I agree with Chris Martensen) is compensate all citizens due to the hardships caused by government actions.  No crazy rules or strings. And let all the companies that piled on debt for no good reason go under.  If they were in a worthwhile business, the next generation of entrepreneurs will provide those goods and services in short order.  And forget the banks, they got their chance 12 years ago and blew it.  Bring back sound money and finance.