Tag Archives: Safety

Texas Failed to Prepare Its Energy System for a Deep Freeze

As many in Texas enter a fifth day without power in freezing temperatures, I searched for information on how such a disaster could’ve happened.

I came upon some excellent perspective from Professor Daniel Cohan at Rice University:

See the entire Twitter thread here. Very much worth reading.

Not preparing the full energy system, from natural gas wells to the electrical grid, for a deep freeze seems to be the culprit.

This makes sense to me as someone who has lived his entire life in the frozen North…northern Maine, Wisconsin, and New Jersey. We’ve had storms and cold even worse than what Texas is experiencing on a regular basis, but I don’t recall the power ever going out. And I’m very grateful for that as I type this in my warm living room.

To me, this calls into serious question the Texas regulatory model, where ERCOT regulates a Texas-only grid that’s exempt from Federal oversight. If they can’t plan for extreme events, why do they exist?

In the mean time, as families resort to making little fires in their homes to stay warm, perhaps Governor Abbott can help. If the Governor’s Mansion has power, why not invite people to come there and warm up? Even a small gesture like that could bring warmth to a few people.

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Photo: “Caricature: Texas Governor Greg Abbott” by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

What International Travel Is Like Right Now

So I’m a bachelor again…at least until Sunday.

On Saturday evening, I loaded my wife’s luggage onto a bus and kissed her through my mask…very 2020! She headed to JFK Airport, bound for her home country of Japan for the first time in a year.

Yes, you can travel overseas during a pandemic…if you’re very, very patient. Her flight was delayed by 8 hours. Once they finally let her on, the plane was almost empty and no one was sitting anywhere nearby. The lack of passengers and the powerful air filtration systems means flying is not nearly as dangerous as most people think. You’re a lot more likely to get COVID at the supermarket.

She arrived in Tokyo after midnight. Next came a required COVID test. She waited an hour or two for the results, and then was free to leave the airport.

One problem: it was the middle of the night, so no transportation was available. She thought she’d have to wait another 6 hours or so until a car service could pick her up. People who have just come from overseas are barred from using public transit, even with a negative COVID test, which strikes me as extreme.

Her brother saved the day by renting a car and picking her up. I didn’t even know he had a license! Soon, she was with her mom having coffee at a new cafe in their neighborhood. She later tortured me with pictures of beautiful dumplings they had for lunch.

This trip was actually the second one she booked…she had booked another on Air Canada that was cancelled. They refuse to provide a refund. The only option they give is rebooking on itineraries that take days to reach Japan. I strongly recommend avoiding Air Canada at all costs. She wound up going with ANA at a price around double what we paid last year.

Given the enormous number of delayed and cancelled flights, her friend who works for ANA strongly recommended booking a direct flight. My wife took her advice and was glad she did.

Being with her family is restorative for her, but for me, I’m not going abroad until all restrictions are lifted. The combination of delayed and cancelled flights, long waits, and high costs are enough to keep me close to home.

“File:Boeing 787 N1015B ANA Airlines (27611880663) (cropped).jpg” by pjs2005 from Hampshire, UK is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I Just Bought These FDA Approved Surgical Masks for My Family

I just bought these high quality surgical masks from Taiwan.

I’ve heard scary stuff about poorly made masks that don’t do a good job protecting people. I’ve worn these KN95 masks for some time (also FDA approved) and found them very comfortable, but I think masks are like clothing: they fit different people differently.

Some in my family prefer the surgical style masks (the mostly blue disposable ones you see frequently). So last night, I made it my mission to find a high quality, FDA approved surgical mask.

I found out that a good surgical mask should be ASTM-rated. This is an international standard of how the mask performs:

  • Level 1: low barrier protection. General use for short procedures and exams that don’t involve aerosols, spray or fluids
  • Level 2: moderate barrier protection. For low to moderate levels of aerosols, spray and/or fluids
  • Level 3: maximum barrier protection. For heavy levels of aerosols, spray and/or fluids

Every mask I’ve ever seen in normal stores has no ASTM rating at all, which means they’re less protective. The masks I bought are ASTM Level 1.

The FDA-approved higher level masks I saw appeared to be available in very large lots designed for hospitals. Since no one in my family works in the medical field, I am thinking an ASTM Level 1 mask should suffice. If you guys know of a Level 3 mask available in smaller quantities, please leave that info in the comments.

The FDA publishes lists of approved surgical masks and respirators (like the KN95 I wear). You can see the masks I bought on that list below. If you match the model number on the FDA list to the model number on the Mocacare website, you’ll see it’s an exact match.

Consider these masks as a good alternative to a KN95 or to surgical masks that came from who-knows-where.