Finding Solitude

silhouette of man standing on seashore

Carving a space for thought

I’ve stopped counting the days since the COVID lockdown, we’re well in the third month. Yesterday the papers announced that our state was moving into phase 3, which should bring us back to some sort of normalcy. I’m not buying it. Homestead, Florida ran out of beds and that the US is back on a positive track, so it’s clear the rest of the country isn’t dealing with it well. I keep looking at our numbers daily like I’m analyzing the next price move for Bitcoin, and it looks to me like we’re in a consolidation phase before the next bull run.

Source: Bing Covid Tracker

I spent most of yesterday completely useless. Sleep deprivation hit hard in the afternoon, and I spent two hours on the couch reading blogs. By dinner I was snapping at the kids so I tried to lay down with Elder when she went to bed but it just wound up giving me more energy, so I spent an hour on the back porch meditating. It was the longest session I had done in a long time.

My backyard is fairly quiet, we live near the end of a cul-de-sac, near the water. We’ve got a patio and a hot tub out the back door, and maybe a third of an acre in the yard, big enough for two large maples, a shed and playhouse for the kids. There a freshwater drainage ditch with a no man’s land about thirty or fourty feet deep, sort of a mini-forest if you will, and beyond that are some condos in the neighboring subdivision. It’s not completely isolated, but enough so.

We’ve got a variety of animals that wander through from time to time. I’ve seen entire families of deer wander through, and often find signs of them around the yard. Rabbits are prevalent as well, and we’ve found turtles wandering about. There’s also the occasional fox alert on Next Door. Earlier this week I watched a squirrel cut down small twigs off one of our maple trees to build a nest at the base of the branch attachment.

And the birds. There are so many birds, I don’t even know how to describe them. I’ve heard woodpeckers out there, and all kinds of calls that I don’t even have the capacity to describe. A lot of the trees along the no man’s land are probably over a hundred years old, and tower into the sky, and I often see hawks or falcons soaring above them or perching atop them. There’s all sorts of other finches and smaller birds that flit around the yard, last year we had a blue jay visit us, and this year we’ve got a cardinal nest in the juniper bush between the deck and our bay window. If I balance atop the deck railing, with one hand on the house, I can see the chicks.

And there I was yesterday, too wired to sleep but to tired to do anything else, sitting cross-legged on a cushion while the sun went down, watching the birds and fireflies bustle about in the yard, alone. Call Newport talks a lot about solitude in Digital Minimalism, and he uses an interesting definition of it, basically the state when one’s mind is isolated from the influence of others. And he doesn’t just mean people around you or in your social media feeds, but also books and magazines. This is something I hadn’t considered before. He notes that while at Walden Pond, Thoreau wasn’t far off in some wilderness, but just a couple minutes away from town, far enough where he could be undisturbed by people most of the time, alone with his thoughts. He talks about Lincoln at the Soldiers’ Home, away from the bustle of the White House, where he could think in solitude. And Kierkegaard had a penchant for walking, hours every day, which allowed him the time to come up with his works.

I’m normally the type of person that doesn’t stop reading, and yesterday was no exception, I spent most of my miserable afternoon alternating between trying to nap and reading blogs. I had had too much caffeine for the former, and not enough to do anything more productive than cook dinner. After putting the girls to bed, I decided that a bit of solitude would do me good, so I gave myself an hour to sit and think, to let the ideas wander in. In the past I’ve had a bit of general anxiety about forgetting a good idea. I’ve tried keeping a notebook handy in the past, and fought the urge to dictate notes to Siri in the past. I’ve since come to realize that the good ones will come back, or can be retrieved after I’m done sitting, especially if I let them play out in my head instead of trying to dismiss them to focus on breathing or what’s going on around me.

After I was done I walked inside, and Missus was coming down at the same time, phone in hand. She immediately told me about how worked up she was about the latest drama, both at work, and with her family airing dirty laundry in public. I listened, but didn’t want to be drawn into it. I didn’t want to be pulled away from the place I had just spent the last hour getting my mind into. I wasn’t done. So I went upstairs, opened up the voice memo on my phone, and spent ten minutes dumping my brain out of my mouth, then read and went to sleep.

I slept like a baby.

Removing all the social media off my phone has been working out real well. Part of me misses staying hyper-informed on Twitter, but taking a break has made me realize that it’s not really what I need to accomplish my goals. It’ll be interesting to see what my metrics look like after a month, I sign on now and the notifications are just useless someone you follow like this types. It’s like the algorithms have detected that I’m becoming less engaged, and they’re crying out, look at this! Look at this! I dumped LinkedIn off my phone as well after getting too many notifications.

I know that my writing volume has increased notably. And my reading has picked up as well, but I don’t have a real way to quantify it. And whether I’m closer to achieving my goals remains to be seen, but that somehow seems secondary to making sure I carve that space out for myself.

Staycation: Day 7

We were rained in yesterday. I tried to keep the kids occupied by offering them several chore cards that they could turn in for screen time. It worked until after lunch, when my wife decided she was done for the day and then it was Marvel movies till the end of the day.

A few days ago, the state decided to start allowing alcohol deliveries, so we were able to order wine and beer through Instacart. I asked the delivery person how things were out there, and she said that it was crazy. Lots of empty shelves. I anticipated as much so I bought double bread and lots of canned meats: Vienna sausages, smoked oysters, and even a pound of canned ham.

Our homemade hot dog bun experiment did not go well. The bread came out OK, but was too dense to fit a dog into. It was funny really. They’ll make better breadsticks with pasta tonight. I normally put crushed carrots in the tomato sauce; I’m going to put in sardines tonight and see if the kids notice.

Undoubtedly, my main concern is food security. I figured we’d need two weeks worth of food to deal with quarantine and a full lock down, but now I’m wondering what is the most efficient way to get a longer supply. Like how many calories does a family of four need for a year, and how many bags of rice is that? Someone told me Mormon families keep a years worth of food in their house, and it’s left me wondering.

Of course if it gets to that, we’re all well and truly fucked. I’ve got a couple accounts in my Twitter feed that are really sounding the alarm as far as the finance system goes, but there’s not a lot of concern for the food system, yet. I did see an article that planting season in North America is still a few weeks out, and noted that with temporary immigration shut down, we might have some problems with planting and harvesting some of those crops.

The pandemic continues to spread. Boris Johnson warned UK citizens that they’re going to become like Italy if they don’t distance. Israel is on full lockdown, but that might be more about Bibi protecting himself from trial and trying to stop unrest over the elections. Nothing out of Putin or Russia. There’s probably mass suppression there.

More cities on the East Coast are starting to see rapid increases in cases. Mario Cuomo seems to be acting like the President should be, and there are theories that the DNC is going to make him the nominee somehow. Rumors are that Biden is sick. Bernie has pivoted his campaign to helping spread information and help people, but most of the primaries are being cancelled. I’m not sure there’s a path to victory for him.

And Trump continues to be an unmitigated disaster. Unable to hold rallies, he’s resorted to press conferences for attention. It’s mostly him rambling, followed by his sycophants talking about what a great job he’s doing, followed by the experts like Dr. Faulci, getting up and contradicting what the President just said. Every time he speaks, the Dow plummets.

Bitcoin has been pretty quiet this weekend. Monday morning will tell what the markets do. I’m down to the last purchase of GBTC or two that I’ve been executing since we started, over twenty weeks ago. I’ve still got enough cash to continue dollar-cost averaging the positions I have active, plus enough to open two or three new positions.

My wife keeps using the word “surreal” to describe what’s going on. We’re very lucky, basically on a staycation for this last week. She’s probably going back to work tomorrow. I’m going to keep the girls home and see how well I handle them.

Self-isolation: Day one

Well, I didn’t mean for this blog to become a daily diary of life under COVID-19, but here we are. I should probably be keeping these notes in a physical book somewhere, but this is the routine I’ve set up for myself. Future historians can thank me later. Our family has officially been under isolation since Friday when we pulled the kids out of daycare. We let them outside earlier to play with a couple friends, but not before I went and talked to the other parents, to make sure they were taking this seriously.

Everyone in the house seems to be well now. My youngest still has a phlegmy cough, but it’s not keeping her up at night any longer. I’m better, as is my wife. Our oldest seems to have escaped flu season intact. Hopefully the clerk at the local hardware store didn’t give me anything when he was coughing near me during my last trip out. Thankfully I was able to fix the toilet leak buy twisting the assembly, so another trip to the store is not needed.

It’s not that we’re worried about catching coronavirus, we’re all young and healthy here. I’m more concerned with spreading it. And giving the local authorities more time to prepare their response. No one I talked to, from daycare to school admin, we’re prepared for the possibility that schools were closed. None of the clients I’ve spoken too, including one in sport medicine and the other in dentistry, are considering the possibility that the Governor will soon close all non-essential businesses or institute some sort of quarantine. (My original estimate for lockdown is this Friday.)

My main concern is being an asymptomatic carrier for the disease, and spreading it to someone who’s high risk. I’m glad the university moved classes online because one of my professor seems high risk, they’re over sixty and have diabetes. And for now, we’ll FaceTime our older relatives until we can be sure that we’re not carrying.

The pandemic is really exposing the weakness of the American health and sick leave systems. Stories about companies like Whole Foods asking employees to donate leave are all over the place. And my experience at the hardware store is telling as well. I felt a sort of physical revulsion when the clerk started coughing and I saw how pale and sunken his eyes were. He tried to take a part from me that I was holding, putting his hand right under a screw I was holding out. I didn’t drop it. He put some washers in a plastic bag for me, which I took; I didn’t really know how to act otherwise. I wasn’t about to judge the guy, who knows what his circumstances are.

It’s the food supply chain that I’m most worried about. I haven’t heard any stores about it breaking down anywhere yet, and while we’re stocked up, I don’t want to stop shopping and risk running low. I had planned to go to the grocery today, but after being made aware of the huge risk that store employees are put at, I’ve decided that I’m going to use the online ordering app and just do a store pickup.

Trump announced earlier that he wanted to send checks out to every American, no strings attached. Everything’s being discussed, but the markets are up. Cryptotwitter is bullish since zero-percent interest, QE, and UBI seems very good for BTC. And now we’re in the strange position that some Republicans, namely Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton, are now to the left of the Democratic Party on these matters. Down is up. Up is down. Everything is up for negotiation.

My wife is doing a fantastic job putting together a homeschool program for the kids. She’s got activities for them, and the little one really likes the Khans Academy Kids app. My oldest was offended that she was still on first grade math, but is now a bit frustrated with the second grade level stuff. I picked up a 75-page packet for her from school today, and we’ll get her back on her teacher’s ClassDojo tomorrow to get her on the program.

I don’t feel like I’m getting near as much done. I’m going to bed on time, but getting up later than I normally do. I spent most of the day with the kids, building a fire and roasting marshmallows; wrestling. That’s all that’s important right now, anyways. I’m getting a bit of day job stuff done during the kids’ class time, but who knows what’s going to happen next week if my wife has to go back to work. We shall see.

Will Open Source Save The World?

The technocratic response to the global pandemic

The West Coast was one of the first areas hit by COVID-19, and the response from the tech world, accustomed to exponential growth and network effects, quickly understood the ramifications of the disease. And while the CDC, decimated by Trump’s cuts and sycophantic staffing decisions, was unable and unwilling to prepare American’s for the reality of what was to come, the tech world acted quickly, cancelling conferences and gatherings to help slow the spread. Now, a week after President Trump has been forced to acknowledge the threat, as colleges, public schools, and states have begun shutting down operations, the tech world has come together to fill the role that the Federal government is unable to do.

Telework/Distance Learning

As soon as conferences were cancelled they began moving online, and many companies immediately began stepping up to offer services. Discord upped the caps on their new video streaming services from ten user to fifty. LogMeIn offered free licenses to education and non-profits. And many flocked to Zoom, which was able to stay up and running despite the rush of traffic to it.

Class Dojo and Khans Academy have been waiting for this moment for some time. My daughter’s public school system is using Class Dojo for their lesson planning, and while I’ve used Khans Academy both for myself and my oldest, their kids app, geared toward two to five year-old children, really shines. Both are free.

One college administrator noted that well over a dozen remote education companies reached out to him for assistance transitioning their curriculum over to the internet. While he noted that this showed that capitalism was “alive and well”, I couldn’t help but note that it smacked of opportunism. No doubt many vendors are falling all over themselves right now, trying to position themselves as the trusted partner for these schools for whatever comes after the pandemic.

Information coming from medical professionals in hard-hit countries like Italy are exposing the unpreparedness of facilities over there. American experts are likewise looking at our capacity and warning that hospitals will be overrun unless we take steps to distance ourselves and slow the spread of the disease. Besides the lack of ICU beds available, the one piece of equipment most needed to save lives are ventilators.

Bruce Fenton put the call a few days ago for engineers and other medical professionals to come together with the goal of designing a ventilator that can be created from off the shelf or 3D printed parts. The goal here being to build a design that can be ramped up and quickly deployed outside the existing supply chain. It got my attention, and I joined their Slack last night. I was amazed at what I saw.

At, over eighteen hundred volunteers have joined and are quickly ramping up projects to help with dozens of projects to help with the COVID-19 response. There are number of infection trackers and best practice information sites being spun up, with web developers, cloud infrastructure and network security engineers coordinating. They’re having daily stand up calls across continents to for communications. Social media teams are springing up to help spread the word. There are outreach channels for certain regions, and fundraising efforts. It is quickly becoming a valuable source for information during this crisis, and watching the conversation going on there happen in real time is fascinating.


This group predates the pandemic, and has quickly pivoted to help with the response. There’s ventilator work happening here through Project Open Air, and there’s already some coordination between this group and the EndCoronavirus teams. There’s over seven thousand people in their Slack. This Github repo has a list of project proposals they’re trying to get off the ground if you would like to get involved.

The technocratic solution to governmental failure

Now I am the last person that would parrot the line that private enterprise, or markets, are best handled to respond to any societal need. That said, I do think that our government bureaucracy is ill suited to dealing with the challenges that we face as a global society. The American legislative system, which is in dire need of an update from its eighteenth-century origins, has proven inadequate for twenty-first-century problems. Some state legislatures are even worse. As someone who is intimately familiar with the inability of laws to keep pace with technology, I have long wondered whether to give up on the political process altogether and focus on tech and entrepreneurial efforts to enact change.

As someone whose livelihood depends on tech, and keeping ahead of trends in the market, I keep a close eye on what technologists and futurists predict. I’m currently reading The Future is Faster Than You Think from Singularity University co-founder Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. Several of the industries that they look at in the book include the education and healthcare systems, and the role of remote work and telepresence weighs is a prominent one in these changes. The Coronavirus has accelerated this process, and is forcing organizations to deploy this technology, quickly.

The type of rapid organizational response being deployed by the EndCoronaVirus team right now, however, showcases the type of rapid response that tech can deploy, that government can only dream about. This deployment of engineers and other professionals from across the globe, coming together to help fight this global health crisis, is inspiring, and I encourage anyone who has even the slightest interest in getting involved to join them and figure out how you can get involved.

It’s too early to tell whether EndCoronaVirus will save the world, but they’re already proving that the tech world is ready to help.

Creating balance for my kids

I assume, that, much like 911, life will come to be known as before COVID-19 and after COVID-19. Today is, different, and I’m trying to be as conscious as possible about how this new life plays out. The chart above is one my wife posted in response to a question from someone stuck home with two small children about activities they can do to keep from going crazy, and I’ve already started making a list in my head of things I want my children to do.

I had a conversation with my oldest last weekend where I tried to explain the importance of attention. There’s a quote I kept seeing in the Waking Up app: “There’s a multi-front war on our attention, and we’re losing.” It’s resonated with me. I thinking about it much lately, whenever I’m feeling guilty about spending too much time on Twitter, or when my youngest is trying to get my wife to pull her nose out of her phone. But what especially irks me is the way my children act with regard to the television.

My oldest does not exhibit much, let’s say, resiliency, when it comes to not getting her way. She’s very prone to defiance and tantrums, and entitlement. Lord, the entitlement. Especially around television. I’ve tried various tactics over the years, both the carrot and the stick. I’ve put it (the television) in “timeout” for one or two weeks, we’ve tried Friday to Saturday night Shabbats. Lately I’ve been allowing them thirty minutes right after they get home from school that they can have a show, with the understanding that they’ll do their chores without any fuss afterward. Even that is starting to lose it’s efficacy.

As part of our drive to FIRE (financial independence, retire early), we’ve cancelled all of our subscription services, Hulu, Prime, and Netflix was the last to go a few weeks ago. The library has an app with short films and movies, mostly non-Disney animated versions of fairy tales, that they’ve been enjoying, and I recently purchased a ProtonVPN subscription so I can torrent anything else that we really want to see without worrying about my ISP cutting off service.

We take them to the library weekly, usually leaving with twenty or more books. My girls are readers, that is for sure. My wife and I are voracious readers, and we’re both glad to have handed that habit down to them. And my oldest has finally found something that she likes better than watching TV: Roblox, which I would describe as a Minecraft-type game.

During our conversation last week I tried to explain to her the difference between active and passive activities, why TV was a passive one and doing things like Roblox and learning apps was was not. It was a Saturday morning, and she had already spent more than half the time she’d been awake watching TV, and I tried to tell her that I wanted her to have some balance. I tried to sketch out a pie graph to show her what her waking hours looked like and what I thought a good balance between active and passive activities, screen times and chores, inside and outside play. I’m not sure how much I got through her head before she lost interest and started fidgeting, but I think some of it stuck.

So we’ll use the activities chart as a starting point, but make it a bit more dynamic. We’ll play with the timing and activities and see how things go for the kids. It’s also not a bad idea for me to put something together like that for my own time. I’m going to have to keep focused also.

Quarantine incoming

I hate to write about COVID-19 again, but it’s probably one of the most important things to happen in my lifetime at this point, so I might as well go on about it. Hopefully I’ll be able to look back on these posts in a few years and … reminisce?

Bitcoin has lost around fifty percent of its value in the past few days. Equities markets are in free fall as well. Not even the NYSE’s circuit breakers nor a 1.5 trillion dollar promise from the Fed this morning could stop it. I think I’m handling it extremely calmly. I expected an end to this bull run for some time, so I’ve been sitting on some cash, in my IRA, and have been taking a large position in GBTC. I must admit BTC’s fall has me a bit taken.

Two hour chart for BTC. A year of gains wiped out in a day.

Right now I’m not changing any plans, as far as investing goes. I’ll continue my DCA targets, including buying some BTC tomorrow for the cold wallets, as well as my daily buy orders for the few stocks I’m scaling into. More GBTC on Monday as well. Thankfully, I decided to allocate some short term savings to my upcoming bills, so rent, car note and credit card payments will be good for the next month.

Beyond that, who knows. My wife has some security with her Federal job, and I can work from home, but I don’t think my boss can stay in business much longer. We’ve had too many clients get bought out in the last few months, and it’s been a while since we signed a new account. It’s time to update my resume and find something to do.

One of my clients is a pediatric dental office, and they said they’re running out of face masks, and are unable to procure more. Can you imagine? Doing dentistry without a face mask? I don’t know who that’s worse for, the hygienists or the patients.

Watching all this unfold on Twitter has been crazy. Trump’s failure will likely go down in history next to Nero’s fiddling, and it appears that he’s sick as well. Last night he caused chaos by announcing a travel ban to the EU, but then had to issue corrections to he speech in the hours after.

There’s still a segment of the population that is in denial about this. I’ve got a small sample size to go on, but most of the people that I’ve interacted with lately are ho-hum about this thing right now. My wife, my youngest, and myself have all been nursing various symptoms over the past week, runny noses, sneezing, coughing, low fever, you name it. I’d say it was just a cold if I wasn’t naive. All I can do right now is make them wash their hands everytime we get in our out of the car and keep them away from old people.

I had to run errands today. After I went to do a job at the aforementioned dentist, (no patients, thankfully), I stopped by the grocery store to stock up again. I’ve spent about six hundred over the last two or three weeks, stocking up. After I got home I had to run to the tire store to fix a flat. I took my youngest, home sick, to give my wife a break for a few hours. We picked up her sister and went to the playground to let them blow off some steam, and the library to stock up on books. I feel slightly guilty about it, but I have to choose my battles. It’s not time to lock down yet, and when it is, it’s going to be hard enough.

My university, and most of the others around the state, have extended Spring Break another week and will be going to all online classes. The local school divisions haven’t done anything other than cancel sporting activities. The governor has declared a State of Emergency. There are several confirmed cases in the region, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing the brunt of it for another week.

My wife and I seem to be in a detached state of inevitability about things. It’s like we’ve prepared for a hurricane that’s bearing down on us, but even that metaphor falls flat. the next couple weeks will be very, very difficult for a lot of people. I don’t know how bad it will get for us; I imagine the financial repercussions will be more severe than any health issues. I just hope we don’t lose anyone we know.

And now I’m a prepper

I’ve been sick lately. My youngest has had a cold, and I’ve had a mild symptoms the past few days. With that and the news on Twitter and the markets tanking over the last week, the Coronavirus is about all I can think of. I had met with a friend who had recently traveled to Thailand and had a “stomach bug” for a day before I met with him, but the cases out of Pattaya don’t match the timeline when they were there. So I guess it’s just a cold.

I’m marking eleven days on my calendar, given that’s how long it took Italy to go from five hundred cases to the lockdown of the entire country. We are not prepared here. The local school system is planning and doing a one question phone survey tomorrow, but the assistant director of my children’s daycare told me that there had been no discussion around closings yet. My wife and I are continuing to try and build up supplies. We’ve been buying extra food at the grocery store, and she stocked up on OTC medicines last time she went shopping.

Given the seriousness of this disease and how quickly it can spread, I’m debating whether it makes sense to self-quarantine. Yesterday I had a client’s site go down because of some hardware issues and I had to roll over there even though I wasn’t feeling completely well. I made sure to wash my hands several times and wasn’t coughing or anything, but I still feel guilty for having touched people’s keyboards. I have one project planned that I’ll have to deal with with this week, and then I’m staying away from client sites unless I absolutely have to. Not sure about school yet. One of my classes is a lecture-only class, and my professor is probably at-risk for complications, but I’ve heard nothing from the school as of yesterday.

So my wife and I will continue stocking up on non-perishables. Fresh fruits and vegetables are going to be a luxury if things go the way I fear, so we’ll probably be looking at a real attempt at growing vegetables this year.

The main concern is how we’re going to keep the kids occupied if we’re forced to hole up at the house for two weeks. The last thing I want them doing is watching TV the whole time. It will be hard keeping them busy without being hands on, at least for our youngest. I guess my main concern, selfishly, is that I’ll have a hard time finding uninterrupted blocks of time to do deep work during the day.

This week is technically spring break for me. I was hoping to use it to catch up on university work, which I’ll write more about later this week. I think I’ve said enough about COVID for the past few days. I want to write about a pod I listened to about Commercial Open Source Software companies, as it relates to possible post-university opportunities. Hopefully, I’ll be able to recuperate and focus on some of these projects, and start writing a new resume. I definitely feel that I’m closing the door on this previous chapter in my career. Each interaction with a client seems like it may be the last. I told a cold-email sales solicitor that I was planning on leaving the company after graduation, which makes it somewhat real in my head.

I am also done with Pennykoin, which clears up some brain cycles to focus on other things. I really need to move toward the things that are going to provide the best opportunity, and I haven’t believed in that project for some time. I was something for me to tinker around with an gain some familiarity with how blockchains and cryptocurrencies work, but it’s broken and I’ve got to move on.

I picked up a copy of The Future is Faster Than You Think last week and have been reading it in very small chunks. I want to give my brain time to process what I’m reading, and allow myself to let it sink in. There is a whole new world coming, and I want to approach it consciously, and point myself in the right direction. More to come.

COVID Mary speaks

There’s a couple things on my mind this morning. First and foremost is the Coronavirus concerns that have been spreading. It’s become apparent to me that this virus is a black swan that that has already put the global economy into recession. Here, I write about why this disease is a big deal, how my family will react, as well as some of the societal, economic and political ramifications.

What to expect

My prediction, based on information I’ve seen reported by epidemiologists, is that we should expect somewhere between four and five hundred thousands deaths in the United States over the next twelve to eighteen months. The doubling rate for this virus is around six days, with a four week incubation period. This spread, if it continues, could cause a full-scale collapse of the hospital system by late May.

The failure of the Trump administration to properly deal with the beginning of this disease over the last few weeks has already set the stage for massive spread of the virus. Trump’s self interest, mainly his failure to acknowledge the true risks of COVID-19 due to fears to spook the markets and jepoardize his chances for re-election, is the main factor in the coming pandemic. Three years of cronyism within the hall of government, replacing qualified careerists at places with the CDC with Trump sycophants, is what will make this a historical failure.

My wife, who works at a Federal hospital, is of course concerned, and I have already come to terms with the fact that everyone in our family will likely get the virus. Statistically, given the long incubation period of this disease, there is a non-zero chance that I may already have the virus, and so my response at this point is to basically act like I’m an asymptomatic carrier. My goal is to not be some sort of COVID Mary and spread it to everyone around me. So I’m going to minimize my trips out of the house as much as possible, and use hand sanitizer before and after I enter any public spaces where I touch a door or other such surface. Tissues, wipes, hand sanitizer are all proper items to carry, and maybe even nitrate gloves, face masks and eye protection if forced in a situation where close contact with crowds is unavoidable.

How to react

This epidemic will no doubt have a huge effect on how we gather. The tech industry has already cancelled a number of professional conferences, and I suspect that any organizations that have events planned in the next few weeks will follow suit. This excellent article on the COVID growth rate notes how the tech and finance industry is dealing with the COVID threat notes that the industry’s familiarity with compound or exponential growth, and network effects, give them a better understanding of how quickly this disease may spread. This exponential mindset is at odds with the “base-rate” experiences of most politicians and policy makers, who deal in a world of linear growth.

My wife and I are most concerned for our parents, mostly our fathers, who are far from the paragons of health. I’m also concerned for my grandmother, who is in her late eighties. There is no doubt in my mind, though, that my children are most likely to be the ones most likely to be vectors for contagion. My littlest one is currently nursing a cold, but there is no doubt that the schools and day care are ill prepared to deal with the situation. Cities on the West Coast are already cancelling school and university, and with the first coronavirus case in my state being reported yesterday, I know it is just a matter of one or two weeks before cities in my region are going to be forced to do the same.

The question my wife and I are asking right now is whether we are prepared to self-quarantine. I would have no problem working from home since I already do. Having the kids home would be more a challenge, as a parent. Thankfully, we’re probably close to having supplies to quarantine ourselves for two weeks, which I think will ultimately happen. Of course, our family is privileged, and it is how we deal with the economically vulnerable, the homeless, e.g. those without sick leave or savings, that will determine how quickly COVID spreads.

Societal ramification

I’ve left aside the economic ramifications of all this, but I’m sure they are going to be massive. The response from central banks have been telling, but given that they’ve exhausted their traditional stimulus activities over the past few years trying to artificially keep the bull market running, they will be ineffective. The pullback in the markets the last week or two is probably just the start. The banks only effective measure at this point is to print cash, the question is whether they’ll be able to get it where it is needed, to the working class.

The effects on travel and hospitality business like restaurants, hotels, and yes cruise lines, is going to be massive. (I saw a report last night that transatlantic air flights were less than three hundred dollars!) While demand-side issues will be problematic for most small businesses due to quarantine, it’s the supply-side ones that are really going to test our economic system. Apple was the first to note that they were unable to meet numbers due to shortages in chip fabrication, and we’ll likely see this play out again and again across all manufacturing sectors.

So while the Fed will be forced to provide stimulus to keep business and workers afloat, there will be shortages of necessary supplies as the population stocks up and prepares to self-quarantine. There may be a short-term boom in certain sectors like toilet paper, but expect price-gouging in the longer-term as other sectors are unable to keep up demand. The influx of cash, coupled with the upcoming bitcoin halving in May, should lead to new all time highs for the cryptocurrency.

What all this means for the Presidential race is anyone’s guess. I would think that Trump is done, but I’ve given up trying to predict what will happen with this Administration. He’ll likely blame and deflect responsibility, possibly even declare martial law to delay the election. I would think that this crisis makes Sanders the likely nominee, since his health and economic platforms would likely be more effective in stemming the spread of this disease, but it may be too late for him to win the nomination. We will likely know for sure in the next few weeks.

Ultimate effects

Finally, given reports that attendees at both Davos and CPAC have tested positive for the disease, it is clear that this is one disease that will hit the elites as much as the common man. In fact, given that the Trump, Biden, Bernie, and most of Congress are in their seventies, there is a chance that a significant number of them may die from this disease . It has been said that one of the mitigating factors for income or wealth inequality over the time span of human history has been periods of wealth destruction, such as famines or wars, which leveled the previous orders of the day and reset the game back to a more equitable level. The Coronavirus may be the catalyst which leads to the greatest redistribution of wealth in eighty years.

Confirmation bias

So I have proved once again that drinking sucks. I went over one hundred days, probably closer to 110, and have spent the past several days back in old habits. Nothing bad has happened, but nothing good has happened either. I’ve actually fallen off of several habits, dear reader, so I am hoping that coming back here and writing will help drive the demons out. I’m being melodramatic, so I guess I should explain.

I had settled into a bit of a routine, waking up early, meditating, drinking some tea, fasting, turning off screens at 10PM and going to bed at a decent hour. I felt like I was getting a lot done, and I felt great. Then I guess I settled into a few bad habits that started a decline. I’ve been drinking way to many caffeinated drinks, and then started staying up too late. I justified it cause I’ve been watching the MIT CS videos. But I wasn’t getting good sleep, so more caffeine, and so on and so on.

Before I stopped drinking, I had bought a bottle of wine, and after I ceased someone gave me a bottle of Scotch. The two bottles were sitting next to each other on a hutch in the dining room, next to the other drinking paraphernalia. I could see them every day, and as long as they were there they functioned as sort of a totem. I knew they were there, and I was proving something to myself by not choosing to drink them every day. And hopefully, days would pass that the thought would never even cross my mind.

Of course, I do not live alone. And I’ve never tried to impose my abstinence on my spouse. I may have even picked up something for her at the store a time or two. But on a particular day this last week, she had a ‘really bad day’ and wanted something to drink, but the only thing that was left was the wine and the scotch. After a bit of half-hearted protestration, I opened the wine. And I poured two glasses. Cause I would be damned if I was going to let her drink my bottle of wine without me. And so it was began.

The next day, so the seal on the scotch was broken. And over the next few nights, finger after finger I drank. And so on and so on, until I was buying and drinking an entire six pack of IPA until well after midnight this morning. I wasn’t hung over, but as I laid in bed this morning I determined that I would get back to the schedule. Wake. Meditate. Write. Be present.

This is my confession. And this is my reset.

Fast notes

Completion of three-day fast

I completed my three day fast last Thursday, and, as I recall from last time, the third day was much easier than the second. My main mistake was not carrying a huge bottle of water around with me the entire time. I drank tea several times during the first two days and it made me feel better each time, but I think the issue may have just been dehydration in general. Having something in the belly to keep the stomach from grumbling helped as well.

In general, I believe that I was in much worse condition when I started this fast. I’ve been drinking a lot of sugary drinks lately, and was probably closer to ketosis that I have been recently, so the problems I had those first two days were likely accountable to that factor.

Breaking my fast in the evening this time seems like it may have been a better for me in some respects, but I think I may try to time it for breakfast the next fast since it’s probably easier to finish the last few hours while sleeping instead of going the entire day and trying to kill those last few hours while preparing for the first meal in three days. In my case it was Pad Thai, dumplings and rolls, followed by everything I could get my hands on for the following hours. I’ve been scaling back into my time-restricted fasting schedule, and am going back on my regular 11AM-8PM schedule starting now.

100 days alcohol-free

Thursday was also 100 days alcohol-free for me, which is probably something that hasn’t happened since I was a teenager. I don’t know if this means I’m a teetotaler now or what. At this point it’s not about drinking so much as it is about spending my money on alcohol. It’s not like I threw out my liquor and wine — I still have a couple unopened bottles sitting on the hutch that I’m saving, but at this point the habit of not drinking has its own momentum. And although I haven’t thought about it too much, being on caffeine and staying up late working on code or whatever is a much better feeling the next morning than staying up drinking.