Two Weeks of Relative Sanity

President Biden was sworn in just over two weeks ago, and I’m sure millions of Americans feel much like I do: Relief that things are getting better after hellacious four years under racist impeached president Donald Trump.

While Biden has taken a lot of criticism – and plenty of it justified, don’t get me wrong – the difference between the abject incompetent self-interested grifting that Trump and his cronies used in the White House and the quietly competent governance which Biden has brought is just such a huge relief.

I don’t think I’ve seen this more clearly than in the demeanor of epidemiologists on social media. Dr. Anthony Fauci of course has gotten the lion’s share of the press, but the increased optimism that we as a nation will be able to get COVID-19 under control has been palpable. There are still serious shortages of vaccines, and the roll-out of the vaccine supply we have has been haphazard-to-poor, but I think there’s hope that under Biden it can improve. These are problems which a competent administration can help with, whereas under Trump there was no hope: Trump did nothing for a year, and there was only more nothing in the future under him.

Congress has predictably been a shitshow, but then it was always going to be with such slim margins in both houses. I think it’s a sign of the Biden administration’s competence that its cabinet nominees have been getting confirmed with huge majorities (mainly opposed by the Republicans’ most extreme fascist wing). Even most Republicans recognize that having capable people running government is in everyone’s best interest.

It’s not that business-as-usual in the federal government is all that great, but compared to what we’ve had for the last four years it is a massive improvement. And if we didn’t have the sideshow of Republican fascists in Congress making America look like it’s half-governed by lunatics (even though the Republican Party is basically the fascist lunatic party at this point) we could be arguing about whether Biden is really nominating the best people. I mean, I’m sure some people are arguing about that, but Republican lunatics have sucked all the oxygen from the room.

It’s great to have adults back in charge. Adults can be plenty fucked up, sure, but at least they are adults, and many of them are trying to corral the toddlers (cough Marjorie Taylor Greene cough Lauren Boebert cough) to stop them from flinging applesauce and poo around the room. That’s an uphill battle, but it’s encouraging to see them trying.

I feel hope that fewer Americans will die this year than last, that fewer will fall seriously ill, that life is going to get better for many Americans. Especially the ones that won’t die.

Can we do better still? Sure. Despite the Republicans’ best efforts, we can keep trying.

But I feel like there’s hope now.

It’s such a relief.

It’s Been a Week

I’m feeling pretty exhausted by everything today. I’d managed to get through all of the chores I set for myself in time to spend the afternoon lazing around and watching football.

And then this morning we discovered that our freezer was no longer working. The refrigerator seems to be hanging in there, but the freezer’s temperature has now risen to almost the same temperature as the fridge. So, we took everything out and put it in our large cooler with some ice, and we’re hoping to have someone out to look at it tomorrow.

But it pretty much shot my ability to relax this afternoon.

Deets for people who care: Cold air is coming out of the vent in the freezer – just clearly not enough. The door seems to close fine, and the gasket doesn’t see compromised. I pulled it out and dusted under and behind it, and also dusted what I think are the coils, but no luck. The fan for the condenser seems to be running fine. Obviously something is not fine but we’ve been unable to diagnose it. We hope to have someone look at it in the next day or two.

Anyway, the fridge is about 12 years old, so it could just be time to buy a new fridge.

Last weekend I joined that group of people who celebrated their birthday during the pandemic. I didn’t mind so much, though, since I don’t often have parties anymore, although I might have gotten together with friends for dinner if things were normal. I took Friday off to have a 4-day weekend, which was nice. Didn’t do a lot, which was also nice.

As with most normal citizens of the U.S., I was delighted to see Racist Impeached President Donald Trump leave the White House on Wednesday, and glad to see Joe Biden sworn in as the new President. I am not a Biden fan specifically – he’s pretty much the definition of a moderate – but I am glad to have adults running the executive branch again.

And I admit I breathed a sign of relief that there were no assassination attempts during the ceremonies – I was really worried that there would be.

But this was a rough week for me. I think the pandemic and quarantine and the racists and insurrectionists have been slowly grinding me down, and by Thursday I was having a hard time moving forward at work. (The fact that I’m so ready to move on from my current project might have had something to do with it. Fortunately I think I’ve just about got the last issues resolved.) My productivity tend to be cyclical anyway, but the down times have been especially pronounced lately. The time off for the holidays didn’t really help, which suggests it’s not downtime that’s needed.

I’ve also been having some physical problems, which at first I thought was a reoccurrence of the pinched nerve I had back in 2009, but now I suspect it actually something below my shoulder. Massaging it helps, and it’s been gradually getting better, but it’s been frustratingly slow. It mainly affects me when driving or typing – good thing I never do any of those things! – and has therefore probably been a factor in the wall I’ve hit at work. It also bothers me when sleeping sometimes. I suspect its root cause is ultimately stress-related.

Fortunately it hasn’t really impacted my ability to run or walk – there’s actually some good news there, as knee soreness I was having for a while in late 2019 and early 2020 seems to have basically gone away.

I know we’re still incredibly lucky to be where we are compared to many people. But it still feels hard, and getting harder.

Anyway, lots of doom and gloom in this post. For those who have read this far, here’s a pic of my snuggly boi:

The Republican Insurrection

As I’m sure anyone reading this knows, on Wednesday during Congress’ counting of the Electoral College votes for President, racist impeached President Donald Trump wound up a crowd of his supporters, after which a large group of them stormed the Capitol building and broke in. This prompted the evacuation of Vice President Pence and the members of Congress, as the crowd wandered around the building. Eventually they left, although a number of people were injured in struggles with the Capitol Police, and to date five people – including one of those police – have died. At least two unexploded pipe bombs were found at the scene.

Since then, Twitter has permanently banned Trump, authorities are identifying and arresting many of the rioters (hilariously, many of them have either outed themselves or been outed by friends and family). Congress is considering impeaching Trump again. Conservatives are grumpily heading to Parler, resulting in them doxxing themselves and doxxing themselves again, leading people to wonder whether Parler should rename itself Evidence, or if Parler is actually an FBI honeypot. (Spoiler: The answer is that conservatives are the stupidest people alive.)

Schadenfreude aside, make no mistake: What happened Wednesday was an insurrection an an attempted coup. Moreover, it wasn’t just a Trumpist insurrection, it was a Republican insurrection, as the Republican Party has structurally and also tacitly encouraged this assault on our democracy for years. The Republican Party as a whole is culpable, and every person who is a Republican Party member, or who votes for or contributes to Republican candidates shares in the blame. The Republican Party clearly supports domestic terrorism and fascism, and we should be mindful of that whenever we engage with any Republican. We should also normalize characterizing the party and its members in these days. Move the Overton Window. Make it understood that if you are a Republican then you are part of the problem.

We should also continue to press for consequences for everyone who was involved in this insurrection, especially Trump (impeach him even after he’s left office), but also all of the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol, and everyone who supported them. (A local business owner is already facing consequences in the form of public pressure. To which I say: Good.)

Additionally, 147 Republicans objected to the electoral college votes, and while what they did was technically legal, we should consider them to be enemies of democracy and supporters of fascism and insurrection. They should all resign or be ousted, and we should be suspicious of anyone who supports them as another probable enemy of democracy. Leaders should set good examples, and actions by them which destabilize democracy and lie to their followers about the election are not acceptable.

I’ve also been enjoying responding to various prominent Republicans on Twitter who have been whining about Trump being deplatformed. Usually with a comment along the line of “I see you’re another whiny Republican fascist.” Mock these people. Belittle them. They are terrible people and should be treated as such. They only want to “move on” and “heal the country” to avoid consequences for their actions. Don’t let them get away with it.

This has been building for most of my lifetime. The Republican Party might not be beyond redemption, but they have a lot of work to do to be worthy of being treated as equals. They need to evict their white supremacists and deal with their systemic racism. They need to stop evicting citizens from voter rolls. They need to stop lying about the security of U.S. elections.

Some have noted that historically failed coups often lead to successful coups later on. Hopefully we can buck that trend and this is instead the beginning of America starting to wake up to the fascists in our midst, controlling one of our two major parties.

Time will tell. Next stop: Inauguration day. Expect the Republican fascists to be out in force, even if they are short on brains.

COVID-19’s Darker Timeline

People sometimes joke (well, maybe they’re not joking) that this is “the darkest timeline”, between COVID-19, the idiots in the White House, the idiots in 10 Downing Street, etc. But it’s easy to imagine the development of COVID-19 taking even darker turns. I think about this sometimes, and wanted to write down some of my thoughts.

This is going to be a pretty dark post, so if this isn’t your thing, then you should skip it.

I have two what-ifs for you, one building on the other, and some thoughts on how they might go:

1) What if we never develop a vaccine?

This is possible. We’ve never developed a vaccine for the common cold, which can be caused by coronaviruses. We don’t yet know whether COVID-19 can be vaccinated against, and we probably won’t know for a year, if not several years.

What does it mean if we can’t develop a vaccine? Well, it means that almost everyone in the world will eventually contract the virus, which at a 1% fatality rate means that about 70 million people will die worldwide, 3.5 million in the United States, and many more will have serious health problems, probably for the rest of their lives. (I don’t know what percentage of infected survive but develop such problems.) I don’t think humans have the will to be able to go into the long-term total lockdown that would be necessary to prevent this.

It also seems likely that immunity to the virus provided by recovering from it won’t last forever – maybe it would last for 2-5 years. So if there’s no vaccine, then everyone who contracts it and recovers would contract it again a few years later. People who got seriously ill the first time around might not survive the second time, raising the fatality rate. And maybe people who came through fairly easily the first time would have a harder time the next time. Or the next. We might each of us end up living in fear of the day that the virus eventually hits us hard.

Moreover, we know that older people are more susceptible to the virus than younger ones, so as we age we may be aware that the next time we catch it could be the last time. People who before were expecting to live to age 70 or 80 might start thinking they’ll live 10 or 15 fewer years – and most of them might be right.

What might such a world look like? Well, we might just decide that since there’s nothing we can do, we’ll just go back to living the way we did before. Maybe we’d ramp up medical services to ameliorate the impact on individuals, but maybe not. (Many nations probably wouldn’t be able to. Some nations might not have the political will to do so.)

Alternately we might continue the lockdown for years, or forever, altering the way the economy works to accommodate. Office buildings would largely be a thing of the past, as would restaurants as we know them and many other social gatherings. Lots of things would move online further. We’d probably see a gradual reshaping of our cities and suburbs along lines it’s difficult to predict – more single-family homes? Fewer? No mass transit? As some have already predicted, people who work in jobs where they can telecommute would no longer be motivated to live near work, and housing prices in places like the Bay Area might plummet as people leave. On the other hand, jobs where people need to interact with other people might become less desirable – but no less critical. Maybe they’d start to pay better as a result.

Some people have already clamored for Internet to be classified as an essential service, regulated or free. That might be a necessity in such a world, but of course the need for medical care hasn’t prevented the U.S. from developing a for-profit health care system where people get raked over the financial coals for essential care. So Internet service might be no different. And even if it is, providing quality Internet service across as large a nation as the U.S. would take time, as many rural areas still have poor service.

If this were to continue into the future, one can imagine significant investments in robotic technology and other automation to serve people who are mostly living in their homes. Automated production, packaging, and delivery, overseen by a bare minimum of people. Restructuring of infrastructure around this sort of life, where cities have automated distribution centers and roads get narrower and mainly used by robots. At an extreme there’s the cheesy science-fictional idea where humanity becomes slaves to our machines, letting our physical bodies atrophy as we’re all living alone in our own homes without the interest in going anywhere. (Much like the “Seerons” in this comic book.)

But I digress. Maybe.

2) What if the virus mutates?

From what I’ve read, COVID-19 is not mutating very quickly. The reason we need to get a flu shot every year is because influenza mutates rapidly, so there are new strained every year. Fortunately we do a pretty good job creating influenza vaccines, though it’s not perfect. COVID-19 doesn’t seem to have this characteristic, and the strains we’re aware of seem to be closely related.

However, we could be wrong about how fast it’s mutating. Alternately, it might start to mutate faster. Either way, it might become more virulent, or more fatal, and mutations might also mean the temporary immunity gained from contracting one strain wouldn’t provide any immunity from another strain.

This isn’t necessarily game over for the human race. If the virus doesn’t become more fatal then it would just be a rougher form of the scenario above. If it does become more fatal, though, well… it probably means mass deaths, close to an extinction-level event. Our only hope as a species then is that it kills so many people that it kills off its ability to spread, and a few pockets of uninfected humans manage to survive long enough to restart the species, without being infected by the remnants of the virus left elsewhere. This is sort of how Europe survived the Black Death – exactly how things play out depends on how fatal the virus becomes.

A cheery picture, yes?

And so:

How likely is all this? Heck if I know. Probably not very likely. I choose to be optimistic that we will develop a vaccine, and that at worst we’ll all be getting an extra shot every year or two to stave off the virus. While it could take longer than the 18 month minimum, supposedly we were close to developing a vaccine for the 2012-13 MERS outbreak before it was determined to be much less virulent than feared and research funding petered out. If so, then hopefully we’ll be able to develop one for COVID-19.

Everyone keep your fingers crossed.

The Spread of the Virus

As I write this (and I say this mainly for posterity, not for anyone who reads this in the next few days), we’re about 5 months into the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and over 3 months into the shelter-in-place measures which have closed down much of the economy.

Just under 110,000 Americans have died from the virus, with about 2 million having tested positive. However, testing in the U.S. has been woefully inadequate, due in large part to the inaction of the Racist Impeached President Trump administration – since usually government action and coordination is key in driving nationwide efforts to deal with an emergency – so its likely far more people have been infected. A case fatality rate of 1% means that about 11 million people – around 3% – of the population has been infected. Adjust accordingly if you believe the fatality rate is actually higher (which would be bad) or lower (which would be good, but still pretty bad even at 0.5%).

In other words, the pandemic is a long, long way from being over.

Despite this, the nation is starting to “open up”. It differs by state – some states never really entered full ‘lockdown’ – but even California is allowing outdoor dining at restaurants, retail is reopening, and I think we’re on the cusp of hair and nail and similar stores reopening. (I honestly haven’t been following the details that closely as there are some businesses I just don’t plan to visit any time soon.)

We’ve also had the Black Lives Matter protests – as well as some other, smaller (and in some cases far stupider) gatherings – over the last few weeks, where mask wearing has been haphazard and physical distancing difficult or impossible.

COVID-19 has a gestation time of about 2 weeks, which means right about now we’d expect to be seeing additional cases, but it’s difficult to be sure due to the poor testing. The number of new cases reported nationally has been going down very slowly, but it’s going up in some states such as California and Texas. It’s hard to know whether this is due to more cases, or more testing. This is one reason that I look to the death rate rather than the reported case rate. We’ll probably know a lot more by the end of July, unfortunately in the form of a spike in deaths (or not).


The question I keep coming back to is: How many people will get the virus before we develop immunity?

Some people have advocated letting the virus run its course through the population for us to develop herd immunity. But if it takes at least 70% of the country catching the virus to develop herd immunity, that means 230 million people. And that means between 1 million and 4 million deaths – maybe more, if the medical infrastructure gets overwhelmed. Sweden elected not to enact significant social changes and it hasn’t been going well for them. The other issue with this approach is that we don’t yet know whether people who catch and then recover from the virus end up with durable immunity, and many people who survive have significant health problems. So it’s a painful and risky approach.

(When I’ve occasionally butted heads with someone who thinks herd immunity is the way to go, I’ve noted that they should be prepared to say goodbye to between 1 and 5 of every hundred people they know. This goes over about as well as you’d expect.)

Most experts think we’ll need to develop a vaccine. Putting aside the question of whether we can develop a vaccine (which we don’t yet know one way or the other), experts agree that it will take at least 18 months to develop a vaccine which we know works and is safe (i.e., that won’t kill or injure the people who get it) and it could take 3-to-4 years.

So even if we continue to impose physical distancing and masks and other measures, how many people are going to end up catching the virus anyway in that time? If 11 million people have been infected so far, that probably means 33 million by the end of the year, and double that before a vaccine is developed, assuming it’s developed in the 18-month window and is rolled out more-or-less instantaneously. 66 million a lot less than 230 million, but still a lot of deaths.

But now the country is starting to re-open, which means more people may be infected, at a faster rate. Humans are social animals, and our economy and social structures are based around getting together in groups. And it’s just very, very hard for humans as a group to make significant sacrifices over a long period of time to combat an emergency. Historically – for example, during war – this behavior is reinforced through strong leadership at many levels, but especially driven from a unifying force at the top. The United States obviously doesn’t have that – we have the opposite of that – and the mid-level leaders such as the governors don’t have the social capital to maintain this level of sacrifice indefinitely.

I don’t think it’s necessarily impossible to find a way to start re-opening and country safely, but I don’t think the people motivating the re-opening are interested in “safely”, they’re just interested in “re-opening”. So I believe things are going to continue to open up, and then the virus will spread faster, people will get sick and die, medical facilities will be overwhelmed, and things will get worse.

I could be wrong. There are a lot of things we don’t know (for example, maybe face masks are a magic bulletif we can convince people to use them). But based on what we know so far, I think it’s going to be a long summer, possibly leading into a painful autumn.

We’re much closer to the beginning of this than the end.

Black Lives Matter

I was thinking that it was past time to provide a personal update about living during the pandemic, but something more important has obviously come up, the protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

Make no mistake, I support these protests. Like many, I worry that it will hasten the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, but I can’t in good conscience judge the protestors’ actions in this regard. Institutional racism has been holding down the country for centuries – literally centuries – and Racist Impeached President Trump has emboldened the plainer variety of racists for many years. The lives and well-being of millions of people are at stake, regardless of the pandemic.

The protests have been mixed with a dose of rioting as well, but it seems clear to me that the rioters were a combination of right-ring agitators trying to cast the protestors in a bad light, and opportunistic looters. In the last week peaceful protests have continued to grow – spreading across the world – while the rioting and looting has declined.

It’s been delightful seeing our Coward-in-Chief flailing around, talking tough while hiding behind ever-growing fencing between the White House and the rest of Washington, DC. And a smattering of his racist party showing their true colors, such as Boy Blunder Senator Tom Cotton’s New York Times op-ed calling for Trump to send in the troops against American citizens, which led to the Times editorial page editor resigning. (Honestly, what good is the Times these days? They seem like little more than apologists for the Trumpists.)

Far less delightful has been protests against police brutality being met with waves of police brutality. The latest news are people calling to “defund the police”. I don’t know what the answer is here, but the status quo clearly isn’t it.

I live in the suburbs and though a couple of neighboring cities have had some surprisingly-large protests, mine hasn’t. There were some curfews in nearby cities and a neighboring county, and there was at least one ugly incident in nearby San Jose. Across the country, though, science fiction & mystery bookstore Uncle Hugo’s & Uncle Edgar’s was burned to the ground in the Minneapolis riots, while fellow Twin Cities store Dreamhaven (which I’ve actually patronized) was vandalized. Moreover, the offices of one of my favorite Magic podcasts, Good Luck High Five, was damaged in a fire and I don’t think they’ve yet been able to access it to find out what state it’s in.

If this sounds like a “but” to my original statement of support, it’s not. It’s an accounting of some of the things that I’ve noted during the protests. There are many others, such as the arrests of the officers involved in the Floyd killing, and I hope we’ll see more people called to account for the attacks on the protesters.

But I do hope this leads to change. Fast change, slow change, durable and systemic change. I realize that I’m at the high end of the privilege scale in this country, but I recognize that this change needs to happen. I believe that we – individually and as a nation – are better off when we all are able to thrive.

And in order to get there, we need to understand, and act on the understanding, that black lives matter.

Smoke in the Valley

As has been widely reported, California is sorely beset by wildfires, with two of the largest in history ongoing right now. Southern California is contending with the Woolsey Fire, which for a while looked like it would be the better-known of the two as it encroached on populated areas outside of Los Angeles, evicting several celebrities from their homes, and even destroying some. That was until the Camp Fire, over an hour’s drive north fo the state capitol of Sacramento, became the deadliest fire in the history of California. Over 50 people have been reported dead, and hundreds are missing. Friends of people we know have lost their homes, and the whole town of Paradise has been effectively destroyed.

It’s ghastly, and it’s probably the new normal in California due to climate change reducing annual rainfall. Moreover, much of California is hilly or mountainous wilderness, making it difficult and expensive to manage the foliage which fuels these fires, as well as to fight the fires when they break out.

The Camp Fire erupted a week ago now, and the prevailing winds have blown a large amount of the smoke down here to the San Francisco Bay Area – over 200 miles away. Last Friday was the worst, with smoke clogging the air and everything smelling burned. Outdoor kids’ activities over the weekend – including the soccer games of our friends’ kids – were cancelled. We mostly stayed indoors. By Monday the smell had mostly abated, and the sky looked clearer, and there seemed to be hope that a change in the winds would clear things up later in the week.

It hasn’t happened: Today is nearly as bad as last Friday, and my nasal passage can feel the smoke even inside the house. I could get a filter, but I’d probably have to wear it all the time, and those filters are not really things you can sleep in. The hills – about ten miles away – are completely blocked out by the smoke. The sun is breaking through, but the sky is still quite hazy.

Imagine what it’s like for animals, especially ones whose owners have to put them outside during the day. The alternative is to, what, lock them in a small room for 8+ hours? And even then it might not help with the smoke all that much.

Meanwhile, fall weather has arrived with lows in the 30s overnight (but highs still around 70°F, thus I’m still wearing shorts during the day). But the temperature and the smoke don’t seem to affect each other at all – unless the smoke is blocking out enough sunlight to cool it down more than usual. I’m not sure. I haven’t gone running since last Wednesday, and I’ve been curtailing my outdoor walks after lunch, too. It’s bad. We’re starting to go stir crazy from being inside all the time.

The Camp Fire is still less than 50% contained, and even if it were fully contained it might keep burning for days or longer – containment just means it’s not growing any larger, but there’s still probably plenty of fuel inside the containment area to continue burning.

Our moronic President tweeted the following last weekend:

Donald Trump just doesn't get it, but what else is new?

So this awful environment is our new normal for probably the next week or more. The long-range forecast is predicting rain coming on Thanksgiving Day, and that would help a lot, but that’s also a full week away.

Climate change is already here for California. It’s coming for you too, whether in the form of heat, or winds, or storms, or food shortages. The Earth is going to be a very different place for humanity to live in a few decades. If we make it that long.

The Latest Heat Wave

So California’s in a serious drought, and this year’s wildfire season is starting a month early. So now what? How about a heat wave.

The mercury started climbing on Monday, and I biked in that day to get at least one ride in before it turned sweltering. Today it was pretty awful, getting into at least the mid-90s. Fortunately it’s not humid, but it would have been rough if not for the air conditioning – boy does this weather make me glad we moved out of the townhouse. We suffered a few uncomfortable weeks there in the years I lived there.

Wildfires? There are several around the state. The Bay Area is mostly safe from the threat of wildfires, though the hills ringing the region sometimes get hit with one – memorably, a few years ago a fire in the southern hills turned the sky a smoky red for several days. But a landfill in the south bay somehow caught fire a couple of days ago, quite some distance from any fire hydrants, and I guess the fire departments had a tricky time putting it out.

The drought so far hasn’t hit the populace of the region hard, mainly we’ve been asked to cut out water use by up to 25%, which for most people means cutting back on watering their lawns. I understand that 70% or more of the state’s water goes to agriculture, so it’s going to be hard hit. That may make for some high food prices, or even scarce items on grocery store shelves, this summer.

But for a lot of people around the state, it’s going to be a long, hot summer.

California Drought

(Alternate title: “If You’re Wondering Where Global Warming Went, It’s Out Here”)

Yesterday California governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to the drought conditions throughout the state. He’s asking residents and businesses to voluntarily cut their water use by 20%.

2013 was the driest year on record (San Francisco’s records apparently go back to the mid-19th century); indeed, at the end of 2012 we got 2 months of heavy rain, and on New Year’s Day 2013 it seemed to just stop. Other than a solid rain shower in November, we haven’t gotten more than a little drizzle all year.

Northern California has had droughts before, of course. There was apparently a very bad one in the 1970s, and the southwest had a drought around 1993, which I kind of recall reading about (since I lived in Wisconsin at the time). I also recall that after the drought the region went through several years of torrential rain, with serious landslides causing some major property damage. When I moved here in 1999 we were a couple of years removed from that rain, but still got a decent amount of rain almost every year. While there have been a couple of winters of below-normal rain where the state worried about water supply, it’s never been as bad as this.

Reading about what we can do to conserve water, many of their tips don’t apply to us. Since our house is only six years old, it already has low-flow water appliances. We invested in a high efficiency washing machine when we moved in. We already run the dishwasher and laundry with full loads. And we do many little things like not leaving the water running while brushing our teeth.

The big area for water savings is going to be our yard. We do have a grass lawn, and we’re not prepared to (nor do we want to) move to a non-grass landscaped yard. But I will look at adjusting our automatic sprinklers to run less; that’s surely going to have the biggest impact anyway, since I think the sprinklers use more water than we use inside the house altogether.

(Ironically, my gym recently switched their shower heads to really-low-flow ones, and now I take longer showers there than I did before, because the water pressure takes a lot longer to rinse the shampoo or soap away. Probably not what they were hoping for; I wonder if it’s a net win for water use overall?)

So we’ll do what we can, and we’ll see how bad things get this summer. Meanwhile, I really hope the high pressure ridge causing this drought abates so we can get at least a couple of months of rain before the end of winter. While our 70-degree highs in January have been nice, I’d much rather have the rain.

Basketball at its Worst?

John Gruber on game seven of the NBA Finals:

But what struck me the most watching this series, and especially game seven, is what an ugly, ugly game the NBA has devolved into. No beauty and very little strategy offensively from either side. No ball movement, and lots of standing around. Very hard to believe that these are the two best teams in the league. The Lakers shot just 33 percent from the field and yet clearly deserved to win the game. For decades, a game seven in the Finals between the Celtics and Lakers resulted in basketball at its very best. Now, it’s basketball at its worst. Brutal.

There’s no particular reason that a sport, when played optimally, should be beautiful or even interesting. Most sports evolved organically, and continue to evolve (albeit slowly) under pressures other than what makes a good or interesting game. Strategy and tactics in baseball (the sport I know best) are clearly far superior to those employed even 20 years ago, in terms of teams trying to win games, yet certainly there’s some basis in arguing that the reliance on walks and home runs has made the game less exciting. (Stolen bases, while exciting, are very minor components of winning; a walk is far more valuable.)

So I wonder: Has basketball strategy been optimized such that the game has become boring, or “brutal”? Were the Lakers and Celtics playing a general style of game which gave them the best chance of winning (notwithstanding specific errors committed in-game)? Or were they playing a fairly stupid game and both teams managed to get to the finals only because of their superior talent (or luck)?

I have close-to-zero interest in basketball (slightly more than I have in hockey or soccer), so I really have no idea. But in the abstract, it’s an interesting sports question.

Speaking of interesting sports questions, has anyone else noticed that people (other than Lakers and Celtics fans) seem more upset that the Lakers won than that the Celtics lost? I guess that’s what being the Yankees of the NBA gets you.