A little bit about a lot of things:

• A lot of folks are dreading their monthly PG&E bills in the wake of hot weather, and understandably so. We always get some hot weather, this being the valley and all that, but there have been a couple of pretty extreme heat events in recent weeks that have kept air conditioners humming and electric meters turning, including over Labor Day weekend.

Local weather observer Marge Carvalho reported Monday’s high temperature at 112.....that’s sizzling by any account.

Like many people we have solar, and a feature on the PG&E website allows us to track the daily electricity use against solar production.....some days we use more energy than our system produces, and other times we are generating more power than we are using.

Tracking that is great fun when we are on the right side of the equation and essentially banking credits each day.....but not as much so when we pull up the website and see day....after day....after day when our energy use exceeded our solar generation.

I actually quit looking for a while, because I didn’t want to know.

Smoke-filled skies during the hot weather didn’t help, as our solar production dropped by about two-thirds on the dreariest days.....and the ash that coated the panels wasn’t doing any good either.

But fall and (hopefully) sunny days but cooler temperatures are around the corner.

Our system is designed to meet our energy needs through the course of an average year, during which there will be months when we come out ahead and others when we’re pulling energy off the grid rather than feeding power in.

But the last month? Dang.....

• Zoom, Zoom Zoom!

The word has taken on a whole new meaning in recent months, hasn’t it, as Zoom becomes the tool by which we confer, hold meetings, conduct instruction, have medical consultations and so much more....

I have “attended” a number of governmental Zoom meetings as an onlooker, but had never actually participated in a meeting until last week when I interviewed a group of educators virtually. “Virtual” has taken on its own new meaning, hasn’t it, but that is a topic for another day.

Anyway, my first Zoom meeting went off like clockwork.....when I found a computer that would support the program, and figured out how to turn on my audio.

Actually, I didn’t figure out how to turn on the audio. After several minutes of being able to see and hear the other participants but unable to make myself be heard, the audio just kind of started working.

Right about the time I was making a smart (or dumb) comment about being able to say whatever I wanted.

“No you can’t,” they said. “We can hear you now.”

Of course.

And with that we were off on my first-ever Zoom interview, fortunately with a very patient and tolerant trio of teachers.

I’m guessing that won’t be my last Zoom meeting, and I’m not sure how I really feel about that.

It works, but I sure miss being able to sit down for face-to-face conversations with people.

There is no substitute for that.

• Fleeting thought after getting off the Zoom meeting......as a kid, I remember watching science fiction shows and being fascinated by all the futuristic gadgets and technology they portrayed. One of those was a device that allowed the users to converse while seeing each other’s faces on a screen.

Yeah. Like that would ever happen.

• Going to be a much different election season this year, with traditional polling places giving way to mailed ballots, drop boxes and satellite election offices/voter assistance centers.

Each week from now into early September we plan to feature candidate profiles for one local race, starting with the Area 3 Gustine school board race.

Obviously, elections are a hot topic (particularly when it comes to the presidential race) and against that backdrop you can count on plenty of controversy and finger-pointing and accusations and conspiracy theories in November regardless of how the presidential election goes. Right now, it seems like everybody is jockeying for position to be able to contend the system was flawed if the election doesn’t go their way.

That’s just my personal opinion, of course.

I have mixed feelings about the all-mail election.

I received a mailed ballot for the most recent election (I believe I requested the switch at one point), and was comfortable with the process. I ended up dropping my ballot off at a polling place.....which obviously won’t be an option in November, hence the drop boxes and voter assistance centers.

But at the same time, there is something powerful about going to the polls that is a special part of the process and I believe will be missed. 

As a poll media visitor as well as in-person voter for several decades, though, I can attest to the dwindling number of people who actually go to cast their ballot in person.

I hope that traditional polling places come back for those who want that option, but given the increasing number of those voting by mail and the difficulties in staffing polls, I wouldn’t be surprised if mailed ballots become standard procedure in California.

Dean Harris the Managing Editor of the West Side Index and Gustine Press-Standard. He can be reached at dharris@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 243-8104.