Bay Area California Journal

COVID, Fires, Smoke, Heatwaves and Power Outages

2020 has been a terrible year. I wrote a few posts in the beginning of the year wondering if “anything else could go wrong,” and I really shouldn’t have said that. Things can always get worse and they certainly have, so much so, I’m afraid to say that phrase anymore.

Yesterday was a first in my life in that the sun was completely blotted out by smoke and fog. There is always sun here in California unless there is fog but even then it is still bright out. I remember terrible thunderstorms in Ohio and not seeing the sun for quite some time but those are natural events. Yesterday was unnatural in that it was day, yet very dark with nothing but an eerie, ominous orange glow.

September 9th, 2020

The picture doesn’t do it justice. The camera automatically tries to brighten the image and even if I manually reduce the brightness it still doesn’t show how dark it really was. As I write this at 6:55 AM on September 10th, I can see the fog and smoke but the day still slowly brightens unlike yesterday. The air quality has shifted from yellow to orange and back to the yellow zone again and I’m hoping that an onshore wind will kick up.

It is very odd to experience the weather here in Pacifica these past few weeks. This is normally a cold, decently windy place. Yet recently, it has been hot, there is little wind and thus the smoke fills the air and doesn’t move. It is as though we’re experiencing some divine retribution because at minimum we would have a slight breeze if not a full on wind. Not these days, the wind is absent.

As for COVID those first few months were like a novelty. Everyone went on walks, we got projects done and caught up with long lost friends through Zoom meetings. As we enter the 7th month of the pandemic it is no longer a novelty. There is more activity in getting out of the house, no more complete lockdown, but it remains low except on hot days. On the hot days Highway 1 becomes jammed as it usually does with everyone seeking relief from the heat on the beaches. Pacifica closed the beaches this past Labor Day but Half Moon Bay did not so everyone went there clogging our portion of Highway 1. Due to that the COVID cases will now spike.

So here I am, sitting in my living room on September 10th, 2020. Our inner circle of friends continues to shrink, the pandemic persists, and now we’re surrounded by fire and smoke. My mood is melancholy and I need to make a mental effort to get out of the slump. It will be another weekend at home where I may not even be able to workout due to the air quality. I do have a computer project but sometimes the air quality gets so bad that we all need to retreat to the family room and stay by the air filter. If the Pacifica onshore wind would just return then we would be fine but again, there is no wind. Weekends in 2020 are nothing to look forward to.

San Francisco on September 9th. – It was dark and the phone camera couldn’t capture it properly.

I forgot to mention that through all of this PG&E has threatened power outages from the grid being overtaxed due to everyone using their air conditioners as well as major wind events blowing over power lines. I’m waiting for this wind event and hopefully it blows the right way. But God forbid a pandemic, heatwave, poor air and then a power outage? We cannot go outside, cannot open our windows and then just sit inside and roast? Luckily we are in Pacifica so it is not as hot as in other parts of the Bay.

I should mention that I’ve learned something with my air purifier and air quality sensor. Closing windows to avoid dirty outdoor air does absolutely nothing. The dirty air will still sleep in. The only thing closing windows does is give the person inside a false peace of mind. The air quality sensor shows it makes no difference as indoor air will be as polluted as outdoor air regardless if windows are closed or not.

Secondly those $200 air purifier models everyone buys do work but are only good for cleaning one medium sized room. Furthermore the windows and doors must be shut for it to make progress. We use it in our family room and there is a big entry way with no door coming from the living room. In order for the air purifier to actually purify the air I need to put up a sheet to cover that big entryway gap. If I do not, even though I run the air purifier at full speed it will only reduce the pollution but does not have enough power to clean the air completely. That is to say pollution levels will be better than outdoors but never reach the healthy, “green zone” levels. We will get slightly cleaner air but also a huge electricity bill.


Covid 19 – 10th Update

It is Friday September 4th, 2020. I sit here in my shed breathing in moderately polluted air from the fires that burn the state of California. My mood is on the melancholy side lifted only slightly by thoughts of a three day holiday weekend.

It is difficult to be happy these days for a number of reasons which I’ll explain in no particular order.

Trump is still the President and there seems to be no limit to the depths in which he and his supporters can go. There is a danger of him losing the election so they try to limit the vote by stifling the post office with the mail in votes, they encourage their supporters to vote twice which is illegal and there is a possibility that Trump will declare victory even before all votes are counted! America is in its very first kleptocracy and it remains to be seen if it can pull itself out of it. One would never have imagined that so many, otherwise very rational people, would fall for such a conman. They are seduced by the propaganda from the right wing and their anger grows daily. Even my own friends and some family have fallen for it. If Trump wins again then we’ll continue on a very dark path to very bad ends. Democracy is already under threat through the President’s actions meddling with the votes. There could be a devastating war although America has always been very good at starting wars for the past 70 years so not much difference there. My thought is that Trump could start a devastating war where nukes could be employed. Americans know nothing of suffering having never been invaded and so many enthusiastically support war even though they could not even describe the adversary involved let alone the neighboring state. But even if there was a devestating war and many Americans died, they would just be losers right Trump? Sadly, nothing will shock his base. These are dark times for America.

Another reason for the melancholy is that we remain in a pandemic and the state of California is on fire. We are not too threatened by the fires but we sure have to deal with toxic smoke. Iv’e never run my air purifier so hard and I’ll have the energy bill to prove it. There have been times where I had to gather everyone in one room and block off the entry way with a sheet as the pollution had spiked up near 200 AQI levels and the purifier just couldn’t keep up. The fires continue and most times we cannot even go outside due to the smoke. We are lucky that we live near the ocean because we just need the wind to blow a certain way for pristine air. Others in the state are not so lucky and have smoke coming at them from multiple directions. The world changes and I find it strange that I now it is only the quality of the water I must pay attention to but the air as well. I remember when bottled water and water filters came on the market. Suddenly our water wasn’t safe and we needed products to purify them. I asked myself, what is next the air? Yes, yes it is! Smoke from fires aside the air pre-Covid was mostly yellow in all the places I frequented which are The Bay, Columbus, Ohio and Japan. All yellow all the time. Now I must spend money to ensure the air we breathe is not shortening our lives.

I’m also down because I was just served a summons for jury duty. I’ve never had to do jury duty and I’m not enthusiastic for the first experience. I’ve been more on the liberal side ever since studying abroad but all I had to do to convince myself to limit government involvement was think about my distaste when I have to deal with the government myself. I do not like taxes, immigration, the DMV and now jury duty. With all the talk of socialism being bad coming from the right, isn’t jury duty a bit socialist? Why, in a capitalist country can I not just pay someone to go do it for me? America is all about money, power and the individual best exemplified by our President isn’t it? Well, if I were to follow that example, why do I need to participate in this social ritual and be threatened with jail if I do not? If I were to follow the American example of individualism, I do not care about the person on trial right? Work it out themselves through money, prison or execution, why do I have to get involved? Because it is our system and how our system of justice works??? Excuse me, have you been paying any attention to our current President? He’s got the entire Department of Justice under his thumb.

Wait, my apologies, we only “say” nobody is above the law, but any person with a modicum of intelligence knows this is a silly phrase.

Finally, my spirits are down because we are about to lose more family friends. Our tight circle of Japanese friends all seem to be finding their way back to Japan over the past couple of years. This weekend is a farewell party for yet another family in our inner circle. When before, our circle of close friends was abundant, it has now become sparse.

Time goes on, everything changes. Before long, the world we know is nothing more than old memories preserved in photographs.


The School Where I Studied

I passed by the school where I studied as a boy
and said in my heart: here I learned certain things
and didn’t learn others. All my life I have loved in vain
the things I didn’t learn. I am filled with knowledge,
I know all about the flowering of the tree of knowledge,
the shape of its leaves, the function of its root system, its pests and
I’m an expert on the botany of good and evil,
I’m still studying it, I’ll go on studying till the day I die.
I stood near the school building and looked in. This is the room
where we sat and learned. The windows of a classroom always open
to the future, but in our innocence we thought it was only landscape
we were seeing from the window.
The schoolyard was narrow, paved with large stones.
I remember the brief tumult of the two of us
Near the rickety steps, the tumult
that was the beginning of a first great love.
Now it outlives us, as if in a museum,
Like everything else in Jerusalem

By Yehuda Amichai


Deer morning breakfast


COVID – 19 – 9th Update

It is July 18th, 2020 on Saturday morning. We’re on the verge of another lockdown due to a spike in COVID cases. I myself am thinking more and more that I must have had COVID already as I’ve had a slight cough ever since February. Due to my job I did travel a lot and was in venues with a lot of people. Sometimes I also notice that the volume of air I take in is only so slightly less than before, I then ask myself if it isn’t just in my head but as we’re starting to realize that this infection has been around a while it does lend a bit of support to the thought.

The seriousness of COVID is becoming more apparent to me by the day and it is very difficult to get a pulse on how things are going to turn out. Since it is unprecedented, nobody really knows. The cases are spiking and even secure industries are having a hard time holding out. I’m reading about nurses getting laid off and even my own company may experience involuntary layoffs for the first time in its history. My Mom just told me about the death of the owner of a hometown restaurant that has been in business ever since I was born. He caught it and nine days later was gone.

This really infuriates me because he would have got it from all those Trump supporters who refuse to wear masks. They run around in their willful ignorance but this time it isn’t just politics, their decisions are leading to actual death. And since they don’t show any symptoms when dining out the blame is never laid on them. History will show that these are terrible people and I hope they are judged accordingly.

As for us, we’re now giving serious thought to having the kids attend school in Japan for the upcoming school year. It looks like full distance learning is the safest option and what any rational school board would take. But the school board isn’t operating on logic alone. They must consider that many parents want to dump their kids back off at school again. For many this is a hard choice as both parents must work since we have little social support in this country. But for many other parents they want to dump their kids because they are tired of spending all day with them and want to get back to status quo. Spending all day with their families is not what they signed up for under the American social contract. In America you’re only expected to spend the evenings with your spouse and children while having your own life at work most of the time. This is how things are although nobody would want to admit that.

For my family, I work from home and the wife does not work. So there really isn’t much change in the amount we see each other except for the kids being home and the kids being home is just fine with both of us. But since I’m pretty sure most of the next school year will be social distancing, even if they do try to get a few days at school in I think it would be in my kids best interest to have that school year in Japan. They’re already way ahead thanks to the Japanese school they attend so distance learning is, sad as it is to say, a waste of time. If they were actually going to school that would mean having the traditional experience, spending time with friends and all the other good things that come with a normal school year. But this is not normal and straight distance learning for them is really just remedial class they don’t really need.

It is an unspoken secret that distance learning is going to put the American child way behind. Make no mistake I think this is the path America should take as health of children and teachers is paramount. The White House doesn’t agree with this but they disagree because they want to remain in power, their idiotic blatherings are not in the interest of children or teachers. Spending a year in Japan where they do have the virus under control (thanks to everyone wearing masks) would put them not only ahead but WAY ahead in terms of school curriculum. In my opinion my eldest would probably be able to skip the fifth grade by attending fourth grade in Japan. Not only that but they would become fluent in Japanese which is the main reason I think they should attend school there.

This is such a depressing post to write as I wish America the best. I wish the President thought the same. But this is the situation we have to deal with and I need to consider the best course of action for my kids futures.