News: My State is Still Burning

It smells like wood smoke. It… almost always smells like wood smoke now.

Who texts me most frequently? Alert SF, the SF Department of Emergency Management notification system.

Sometimes Alert SF texts to let me know that the air is safe to breathe, which is my hint to air out the house and run any quick errands before the smoke returns.

It’s a strange way to live.


More than 12,400 firefighters are continuing to battle 22 major wildfires. CAL FIRE has increased staffing in preparation for critical fire weather in multiple areas of the State.The latest numbers on the August #LightningSiege. More information at:

Our firefighters are AMAZING.

Oh! Speaking of our thousands of heroic firefighters: our incarcerated firefighters (!) have been risking their lives to save others by getting certified and successfully performing wildfire firefighting duty during their prison sentences. They will finally be permitted to do this essential public service work after incarceration AND have their records cleared if California Assembly Bill 2147 reaches the governor’s desk. (Newsweek story here. It has passed in the Assembly, and there are some alignments happening with the state Senate, according to this data at Various violent offenders are excluded from qualifying for the program.)

This bill corrects an otherwise exploitative practice – I’ve read elsewhere that they were paid about $3/day for their dangerous work (!), and were disqualified from working in the firefighting profession in which they are sorely needed due to their convictions. This corrective bill should pass!

News: Local Wildfire Smoke Photos

I’ve written that my beloved home state of California is on fire. What I haven’t done is show you what that means here in San Francisco, where I learned of the fire firsthand by looking down a street and seeing a wall of smoke reaching to the sky.

I’m me, so I went to the top of the nearest hill and photographed the arriving smoke-scape before it had a chance to spread over us.

2020.08.18 Wildfire smoke from Orizaba Hilltop

8 new photos added to shared album

These photos were taken back on the 18th, when the arrival of smoke was clear and distinct: now it infuses everything, and we can tell by the odd, reddish-yellow sunrises and smell seeping into our clothes that it is here.

Life: Writing Amid Too Much Real News

Tiny clip from the reliable site

I’ve been quiet here, because there is a lot happening. A LOT. I’m not good at pretending otherwise.

I don’t want force false cheer or deny current events in my posting, because then it will read as, “A dangerous pandemic is raging out of control around the globe, my home state is on fire, my lungs are filled with smoke, my country is sliding into fascism, and HERE IS A NEW RECIPE FOR PICKLED BEETS!”

–me, just now

I’m having two kinds of interactions with people about the current state of affairs.

People who are cautious and have changed their lives since the pandemic became widespread are easy to chat with about our condensed, indoor lives. We’re trying to stay healthy and almost sane. We exchange recipes, movie recommendations, tell each other stories, share links, have video calls, compare masks, and discuss ways to solve pandemic-related logistical problems. (I want some of that fancy, vacated office space to be made available to schools which can no longer safely accommodate all of the students. Some of those offices (the ones that won’t have elevator lobby traffic jams) have VAST amounts of floor space, decent ventilation, zippy fast internet, and natural light. At even 30% occupancy per floor, they could support a lot of students! And yes, we’ll need to hire more teachers and support staff to make that work, and that would be worth it and potentially good for the recovery! And and and and…) My friends who are cautious may need to visit ailing relatives, and plan long, arduous car trips that may not involve stopping. They run errands, but do so cautiously and efficiently while masked. They avoid non-cautious people. If I have seen them within the last six months, I socialized with them outdoors and while wearing a mask.

People who are not cautious are living very different lives, and I can’t entirely relate to them. They are flying in airplanes. They are going on vacations and drinking in bars. They might as well tell me they are from Alpha Centauri. They aren’t appearing in Karens-gone-wild videos, thankfully, but I’m still judging them the way I judge people who don’t stop at stop signs. It’s not that I don’t understand taking risks to oneself: it’s putting others at risk that really bothers me.

These events are also changing what I read, and my reading has become GEEKY IN NEW WAYS. I have waaaay too many conversations about virology, antibodies, vaccine development, how clinical trials are supposed to be done (no, not all the researchers who don’t have the illness injecting themselves – THAT is just a bad version of Phase 1, people!); I’ve given two brief informal gushing chats on angiotensin-converting enzymes 2 (ACE2); I’ve translated acronyms for cardiac conditions potentially aggravated by COVID-19 to my father; I’ve started “liking” too many posts from UCSF about their nanobody-based potential treatment, AeroNabs; and I am constantly frustrated that I’ve got a lung health issue that is holding me back from going out to show up in person for the biggest civil rights mass movement of my adult life, Black Lives Matter.

I am NOT sending Twitter invitations to that asteroid that everyone is writing about, either.


Will #asteroid 2011 ES4 hit Earth? 🌎 No! 2011 ES4’s close approach is “close” on an astronomical scale but poses no danger of actually hitting Earth. #PlanetaryDefense experts expect it to safely pass by at least 45,000 miles (792,000 football fields) away on Tuesday Sept. 1.

I’m sure I’ll find a way to write, perhaps even as if there isn’t ash in my hair from taking my compost bin out, but my brain is full, I’m tired, I’m discouraged at the state of my country, and I have not done anything to get the abs I was convinced (half-heartedly) that I could have had by now. This will all inevitably seep into my writing, and that is okay.

News: California is on fire

Wildfire information from CalFire, shared from their Twitter feed.

Last weekend there was a thunderstorm, a PROPER one, the first we’ve had in more than a decade, easily. It impressed me. I thought it was novel.

It started more than 600 fires here in California.

Stepping outside when the smoke moves in midday is like standing over a campfire. Directly over a campfire.

This is… distracting. I know several people living near-ish to the fire; the two that are closest are the most modest about it, but are quite vigilant and have their things packed if they need to evacuate.

It’s a distraction from constantly read about the pandemic to constantly read about the fires, but another disaster was not exactly the distraction I was hoping for.

Here are some favorite resources for fire monitoring, in the order I rely on them:

National Weather Service Bay Area on Twitter ( red flag warnings, photos, video links

CalFire on Twitter ( includes posted reports, evacuation orders, and information sharing across federal, state, and local fire authorities. If you don’t like Twitter, you can also go to instead.

Fire and Smoke Map from the source of the graphic below, filled with primary-colored geometric shapes indicating sensors and smoke readings. It’s also worth noting that is great for air quality information generally.

SUBSCRIPTION TEXT ALERT TOOLS: I receive text alerts from my city & county emergency services organizations ( (Everbridge) and, which are timely and useful, if frequent. If you don’t know your county emergency text alerts agency and you are here in California, you can look it up at (though the Stanislaus County link is wrong, so click here instead).

What a week. Image from during a relatively good air quality moment in the evening for my region. I did say relatively!