Gas station without pumps

2021 February 9

First dose!

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:12
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My wife and I have both gotten our first doses of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2.

I got the Moderna vaccine last Friday through my employer (UCSC), who have started inoculating staff and faculty who are 65 years old or older (after first inoculating all the health-care workers and first responders).  My shoulder was a little sore for a couple of days, but it was less uncomfortable than the old-folks’ flu shot I got last September.  (Speaking of which, I wonder how they are going to choose strains for next year’s flu shots—flu is so suppressed this year that they don’t have clear dominant strains to predict from.)

My wife, who is younger than me, was thinking it would be weeks before she would be eligible, but she got her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine from the county today, because she is teaching an in-person kindergarten class—they had a one-day clinic just for Pre-K and K teachers.  Because she got the Pfizer vaccine, which has a 21-day interval, while I got the Moderna vaccine, which has a 28-day interval, she’ll be getting her second dose before I get mine.

Both of us should be as protected as a vaccine can make us by the end of exam week Winter quarter.  But my Spring course will still be online, as not enough students will have gotten even the first dose by then to make in-person labs reasonable from a public health standpoint.  In any case, I plan to continue social distancing and wearing a mask outside the house for the next 6 months, or until it becomes clear that herd immunity has been achieved (which might take a really long time if we get a lot of crazy anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers).

We are the first in our extended family to get vaccinated, I believe, except for my aunt in England, who has had both doses of the Pfizer vaccine—being over 90 in England was a very high risk category!


On another note: last Friday I hosted a virtual bread-and-tea event again, baking the sourdough focaccia again. I made this one with all bread flour and had it rise longer, but it did not come out with quite as much of the “old-dough” flavor, though it rose more impressively than the earlier batches.  I think that my sourdough starter may be growing mainly yeast now, with little of the bacteria that give the sourdough flavor.  I may reinoculate it with some mother of vinegar and some live yogurt the next time I feed it.

2021 January 22

Santa Cruz County Covid stats

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:11

Santa Cruz County Health have recently improved their web site to report more details about deaths from COVID-19. I looked at the current data (“data entered into CalREDIE as of 1/20/2021, 17:00”) to see what I could learn.

Our county is a bit unusual in how high a percentage of the deaths are in nursing homes (79/120=66%, compared to 33% statewide).  Four outbreaks make up most of these deaths: 20 in Santa Cruz Post Acute, 16 in Watsonville Post Acute, 14 in Pacific Coast Manor, and 7 in Hearts and Hands.  The other nursing homes have 1–3 deaths each.

Like other places, most of our positive tests are in young adults, but most of the deaths are in older adults—the case fatality rate starts going up somewhere in the 60s and really soars in the 80s and 90s:

age range cases deaths case fatality rate
0–19 2391 0 0%
20–29 2666 0 0%
30–39 2160 3 0.14%
40–49 1855 2 0.11%
50–59 1520 1 0.07%
60–69 1031 13 1.26%
70–79 478 22 4.60%
80–89 257 36 14.01%
90+ 163 43 26.38%

If we aggregate the ages below 60, we get 5535 cases for 30–59, 8201 cases for 20–59, or 10,592 cases for 0–59, giving case fatality rates of 0.11%, 0.07%, and 0.06% respectively.   I don’t know how many cases there were in the nursing homes (only the deaths are reported), so I don’t know what the difference in case fatality rate is for old people in nursing homes and old people not in nursing homes. Given the very high fraction of the total deaths for people in nursing homes, I suspect that the case fatality rate in nursing homes is much higher than the overall death rate for those age groups: possibly getting close to 100%.

Although the case rate indicates that more Latinx people are getting infected than their share of the population (55.36% of the cases are Latinx vs. 33.49% of the population),  the death rates match the population statistics (31.67% of the deaths are of Latinx people).  Most of the old people in the county are white, and age is a much stronger predictor of who will die than race is.

According to the state page tracking ICU beds, Santa Cruz County currently has 9 patients in ICU beds, with no ICU beds available.  The number of ICU beds in the county has varied a lot (on July 17 we had 2 ICU beds in use and 37 ICU beds available), probably based more on staffing available than on beds and equipment. We have had two days so far (Nov 4 and Jan 8) with 20 patients in ICU beds.  The number currently hospitalized is 72, down from 84 on Jan 16 and 17 or 86 on Jan 4.  The downward trend in hospitalization seems to be a statewide trend, and I hope it continues.  The vaccine should start helping in about a month, if they can get their act together for delivering it.

2021 January 16

Mixing-bowl bread

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:40
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Yesterday I had a small bread-and-tea event (only 2 people besides me)—the events really don’t work as well on Zoom as on-campus, where the smell of the freshly baked bread fills the hallways. On Zoom, I can’t share the bread I bake.

The bread I made yesterday was not a particularly special recipe, but I tried baking it differently.  Instead of using a loaf pan or shaping the loaf on baking parchment, I just left it in the mixing bowl that it had been rising in, and baked it there.

I started the bread on Thursday, but baked it Friday afternoon.  I did not measure all the ingredients, so the numbers here are approximate:

1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups bread flour
2 cups warm water
2 Tablespoons sugar

Use the dough hook of the mixer to mix the ingredients (they are too liquid to make a dough). Let the sponge rise for a couple of hours, then take out a cup of it to save as the next starter.   To the rest add

2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil

While mixing with the dough hook, gradually add

2½ cups whole-wheat flour

The goal is to get a dough that is elastic but still slightly sticky.  Turn the dough out onto a counter floured with whole-wheat flour and knead by hand for a couple of minutes, keeping the dough lightly floured to keep it from sticking.  This used another

½ cup whole-wheat flour

and resulted in a soft and elastic dough that was not too sticky.  Put it in a mixing bowl with a little olive oil and turn it to coat the ball of dough with oil.  Let it rise overnight with a damp cloth covering the bowl.  After a couple of hours the dough had doubled in size, but shaking the bowl a little deflated it, without needing to punch it down.

In the morning, grease a different stainless-steel mixing bowl with

cocoanut oil (or butter)

and turn the dough into the new bowl. The dough again deflated on being transferred from one bowl to the other. Let it rise in the new bowl for 4 hours. Bake at 375°F for about an hour (until the center of the load is around 195°F). I turned the loaf out of the bowl then to bake another ten minutes on terra cotta tiles, but that may not be necessary.

Here is the baked bread still in the mixing bowl it was baked in.

Turning the bread out onto the tiles was very easy. I could have just cooled the bread at that point, but I decided to bake it a little longer to make the crust a little crisper.

The bread cooling on the rack shows the nice color and shape from the unusual loaf pan.

The bread had a slightly softer crust than some of my sourdoughs (as expected from using a pan), but the crumb was excellent—the somewhat soft dough and gentler handling of the bread before the final rising probably helped.

2021 January 9

One week into new quarter

We’re one week into the new quarter (10% of the way through!) and the course is going ok. Most of the students have finished the first-week lab, which consists of installing a lot of software and soldering headers onto a Teensy LC board.

The software they had to install was

Of course, each piece of software has its own installation idiosyncracies, different on Windows, macos, and Linux.  Some people even bumped into some problems because of running old versions of macos or Python (which were luckily cleared by upgrading to slightly newer versions).

The soldering was a bigger problem, because many students plugged in their cheap irons and left them on for a long time without tinning the tips.  The result was a sufficient build-up of corrosion that that they could not then tin the tips—even using a copper ChoreBoy scrubber to clean the tips didn’t help in some cases. In the in-person labs, I often spent most of the first week labs cleaning soldering iron tips that students had managed to mess up, but I can’t do that online.  This was not such a problem last quarter, as most of the students knew how to care for soldering irons from the first half of the course, but it may be a bigger problem this quarter, as most of the students have never touched a soldering iron before.  Some of the ones who are living here in town may be contacting the lab staff to see if they can get access to tip tinner or get some help cleaning their irons.  Those further away may be buying tip tinner on their own—I had not included it in kits, because I nad not expected so many to need it and it costs $8 apiece.

Grading is going fairly well.  My grading team and I have had two Zoom meetings so far (for Homeworks 1 and 2) and I graded Quiz 1 by myself, so we are keeping up with the grading.  He have Homework 3 and Prelab 2a (there is no Prelab 1) both due Monday morning, and we’ll try getting them graded Monday night.  We’re having to do most of our grading in the evening, because one of the graders is living in China, 15 time zones away, and none of us in California is an early morning person.

In other news, I’ve finally finished clearing the blackberries and ivy from behind the garage (a project I started about 2 years ago).  I’ll probably find some more when I cut back the kiwi vine (an annual winter project, in addition to frequent minor pruning during the summer).  I think I either need to get some female kiwi vines and an arbor for them or uproot the male kiwi.  There is really not much point to having just a male kiwi intent on taking over a big chunk of the yard.

There are still a lot of blackberry roots out there that will sprout new vines.  I’ll try uprooting them where I have access (not where they are coming through the cracks in the concrete), but I’ll probably have to do a monthly sweep of the yard to remove blackberries for the rest of my life in this house.

2020 December 31

Forty-seventh weight progress report and 2020 year-end report

This post is yet another weight progress report, continuing the previous one, part of a long series since I started in January 2015.

I’ve been putting on weight since my big diet of 2015, with occasional attempts to correct course.

This year has been a particularly bad one, with my weight reaching the highest value ever—touching the “overweight” range. I was doing ok in the first quarter—gradually dropping towards my desired weight, but once the pandemic started and I was staying home snacking instead of bike commuting up the hill to my office, I packed on the pounds at an alarming rate.

It probably did not help that I spent a good chunk of the summer and fall experimenting with bread recipes. A few of the experiments are recorded on this blog, but a lot of the more recent baking has not involved any recipes to post to the blog (making whole-wheat sourdough using minor variants of the bread-machine recipe), and I’ve been too lazy to photograph.

My exercise has been very limited—I averaged only 0.85 miles a day of bicycling in November and December and probably not much more in walking (about 80–87k steps per month—way down from 230k in January). Because bike commuting was my main source of exercise, I remain concerned about how I’m going to get fit again—exercising at home does not seem to happen, even when I promise myself that I’ll do some today.

I did get in some recreational bicycling today—bicycling up Empire Grade to see the dozer line at the top of campus (not really very visible any more, as the grass has sprouted) and even higher up to see the edges of the CZU burn.  I’m out of shape enough that I turned around after only 7 miles and 1150 feet of climbing.  There was not much to see—if I want to see the burned areas, I’ll either have to go further up Empire Grade or choose a different part of the burn to look at—perhaps taking a flatter, but longer, route up Highway 1.

Other milestones for the year: I got all the videos done and the closed captions edited for BME 51B, and I’m almost finished with the videos for BME 51A for Winter (only 10–12 more to go, or about 3 hours worth of videos), though the caption editing has barely started.  The videos are available on YouTube as two playlists: Part A (for BME 51A, 108 videos totalling 24 hours so far) and Part B (for BME 51B, 49 videos totalling almost 12 hours). I did get a new release of the textbook out on December 28th, in time for the new class that starts on Jan 4.  The book is available (as always) from, and anyone who has bought it in the past (even with a free coupon) can get the latest edition free by logging in with their LeanPub account.

I’ve also managed to keep my backyard mowed this summer (it used to always be a jungle of head-high weeds). I’ve almost finished clearing the ivy and blackberries from the area behind the garage—I’ve only got about 25 square feet left to clear—about one more week’s greenwaste can, though the rain may bring back a lot of the blackberries, as I can’t remove the roots from under the concrete. In March, I didn’t think I’d be able to get this far. 

My son and I acted together for the first time, doing a short promo video for Santa Cruz Shakespeare.  I’ll post a link to it when they finish adding the title and donation info at either end.

When compared to my to-do list from September 2019, my accomplishments for 2020 don’t seem so great—a lot of the stuff on that list is still not done.  Oh, well—something to do after I retire in June.

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