Corona Diary 18 March 2020

2020-03-18 07.03.33

Corona highlight: my abs made Bella’s list of Everyday Rectangles. I must not be popping because she put them in horizontally. In my defense, I’ve lost a lot of cardio with the ski hills closing…


Home School

It is absolutely essential to separate ourselves so we get a break from each other. The ONLY time we are completely overlapping is at dinner.

Today Bella set the schedule

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Art proving very popular with kids and parents. It always runs long! We use youtube videos of “how to draw” with iPads and headphones. Yesterday was leprechauns, today was a safari collage (each kid did an animal and a piece of vegetation). Monica did the monkey!

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Spelling quiz – eight words at each kids’ grade level (24 total) then write a short story using the words, share the story with the group, teacher floats and helps one-on-one. Very light editing with the Grade One kid as its more about writing, than spelling for her. I gave Bella a feather for achievement as she did a great job (photo below). Lexi managed to use every word in her story.

FaceTime calls to end the school day for our youngest and her pals. VERY popular for the kids in the family who are social. Consider for the adults that are social as well!

Cali Governor says schools might not open again this year. Local scuttlebutt from our education contacts is 8-week closure. By that stage, they will probably flag the year (we end third-week May).

Winter storm coming tomorrow, after a beautiful day today. Our plan:

  1. Two movies
  2. Clean the house
  3. Hero shoveling for our elderly neighbors
  4. Father-son gym work, Axel going to tagalong for my program

2020-03-18 11.04.09

Read aloud with all three went well – we used “Report Card Trouble” from Berenstain Bears’ => game was…

  • Youngest picks the book, at her level
  • Rotate reading
  • Oldest has to read upside down while showing pages
  • Kinda high stakes to read in front of your siblings

30-minutes was plenty of time for all, including an 11-year old and the teacher!

2020-03-18 11.06.03

Writer’s workshop was starting a letter to other kids about what it’s like to be locked down, what they are enjoying and ideas for kids/parents around the world.

Outside lunch before the storm!

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Virus Updates

Positives in a longterm care facility announced yesterday – a resident and an employee – not good. It’s in Loveland, just north of Boulder County.

Best advice I’ve heard about limiting spread is to simply stay the heck away from known hotspots (States, Counties, Cities, Zip codes).

Boulder County up to 11 confirmed and community transfer was documented on March 17th, remember that means the virus arrived some time prior.

Six-day growth rate of positives at 33% in Colorado (183 cases). Cases seem low and likely reflect a lack of testing. I expect we explode by the weekend, unfortunately (NYC popped today).

Here’s a helpful article about the “why” of the recommendations concerning social distance, washing hands and cleaning surfaces. It’s all about reducing the probability of infection.

State gradually shutting down – wish it was faster – wish they were locking down hot spot counties and the high-country. The mountains, particularly, are simple to lockdown and limit to essential travel only. We are far, far from the successful example in South Korea.

Stealth Transmission in the news => this will be essential to understand in highsight

  • Thinking back across the month
  • Three of us had brief unexplained fevers in last 28 days
  • Girls currently have dry coughs (3/17) after we started self-isolation on 3/13
  • Every symptom, every cough (!), gets our attention

NOTE: If stealth transmission is for real then we each need to assume we are asymptomatic carriers every single time we leave our houses.

We need to expand testing but still lack capacity, or a consistent message.

I have not read a single report about contact tracking and asymptomatic transmission in Colorado.

Bill Gates did an AMA: says 6-10 week shutdown. We need more realistic messaging from the Feds.


Markets & Finance

Limit down open after an up-day yesterday. I’m waiting for the SP500 to approach 2,200 before I rebalance again. Yo-yo market getting close, circuit breakers tripping, Ackman speaking of the endtimes on TV.

I am telling myself:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff (as we sail off the cliff)
  • Look for ways to help those who have helped you
  • Look for ways to help community => it’s why I’m sharing every good idea I come across.

People that never talk about money are starting to talk about money. Other friends rolling along shopping, socializing, thinking about travel (that will change).

30% market down, high personal cash burn rate, service businesses stopped dead, what happened in 4 months in 2008 has happened in four WEEKS in 2020.

High personal cash needs, and an overallocation towards equities, forces you to sell stocks into a down market. It’s a big reason why a strategy with bonds/treasuries makes sense => even when bond yields don’t “make sense.”

Treasury secretary talking about 20% unemployment – impact from stopping the US/EU economies are unknowable. What is certain: a massive sudden deflationary shock.

When everything moves down in price (equities, bonds, gold, oil) => people wonder why => I think it indicates a global deleveraging (sell it all!) hugely deflationary. Kinda explains the hedge fund guys panicking, as a class.

Correlations that were nice while they lasted, and leveraged to the hilt with all-time low interest rates, have broken down. LTCM for many, I guess.



Moa, our aupair, made it back to Sweden! Yay! One of the last planes into Frankfurt and, then, Stockholm.

Internal flights closing in EU countries – how long for USA?

Washington State is “ahead” in terms of virus spread, with Seattle/Amazon/Microsoft being impacted, I expect we will see a lot of community activism from the Pacific NW => Gates did an AMA today. These people are smart, educated, connected and wealthy. They are not the sort to sit around.

I have an essay on “being spoiled” in my drafts – written before the crisis. Turns out there was no need to make my life harder in order to generate humility & gratitude. Life did it for me.

The central premise of the spoiled essay is…

Being spoiled is when I think my life is hard but it really isn’t.

Corona Diary 17 March 2020

2020-03-16 15.46.43

Most important thing, gut feel is you need to be gearing up for a 30-day period at home and 60-days of home schooling.

Human nature is to expect things to blow over quickly (denial), then get depressed (despair), then never end (acceptance?).

Or you can jump straight to anger… 😉

2020-03-16 15.16.32

Above is a pic of our back-up fridge. We think we have a lot but it will be gone in days. I’m going to let everything run out: (a) to avoid shopping alongside sick people; and (b) so I learn what’s important in this sort of situation.

I have to say, I am getting a lot more respect for preppers. I’d always pooh-poohed the idea of the zombie apocalypse. The most advanced countries in the history of the world will have been completely shut down across 60-days.


If you need some reading ideas… there is something I picked up from George Soros:

Social systems move from under- to over-regulation based on crisis experience. Each move setting up the next. I suspect we will see this coming out of this crisis.

The Soros book is a good read and getting a better understanding of his political philosophy is worth your lockdown time:


Local Update

People in Boulder starting to get it. Everyone in the neighborhood keeping six feet distance between non-family groups. Families still staying close – this will change once the infection pattern shifts from between household to within households. We are a ways away from that because we’re not truly locked down.

Asian experience in a 14-day lockdown. First you see the positives from last week’s infections. Second you see the infections from those people infecting their families.

I came across a good metaphor – would you take an M&M from a 100-piece pack if you knew there were two inside that would kill you. If you’re at a St Paddy’s Day frat party then this is something to reflect on.

Throughout the county, the school district is giving food out to all kids, no questions asked. My kids couldn’t figure out why anyone would need to give away food and were worried homeless people would kidnap kids to get free food. I settled them down and used the opening to talk about food insecurity for many in our community.


Personal Finance

Actually paid attention to the paper losses during rebalancing, ouch!

Down 30% is harder to lean into. Four years annual living expenses went up in smoke yesterday (paper losses). Put a year and a half equivalent (personal living expenses) into equities today from bonds.

Two conference calls tomorrow to discuss increasing equity weightings.


Home Life

Kids made a leprechaun trap – overnight, I tossed in some money from my grandparents – they were thrilled with commemorative coins from Canada’s 1967 Centennial.

2020-03-17 04.40.20


Why don’t we allocate the first two hours of every shopping day to seniors and their caregivers? There will be less virus present early in the day.

Not my idea and I can’t remember where I saw for credit, probably Twitter.


Virus Spread

Italy seems to be showing 5-day incubation period – some good news. Also data from benefit of early lockdown vs late lockdown. Early shows way smaller peak.

Note the successful lockdown city’s cases are still rising after 16 days. If you don’t lock early then you will be locking for double the public’s expectation.

Less good news was Washington Post reporting stealth transmission from up to a million asymptomatic people with the virus. Makes sense: the virus is using kids and young people to spread itself.


The state is opening a testing facility in Telluride / could it be the lack of positives was due to a complete lack of testing? MEXICO – you need to be thinking about this possibility!

A better message is going out to the public with the state ramping up testing in the high country and encouraging more testing. Private companies coming on board. Polis sent state nurses to Telluride. That got me thinking – a lack of positives might indicate a lack of testing, not a lack of the virus.

Virus was in Vail Village March 1st at the latest. This has implications for every location linked to a hotspot => Mexico fooling itself right now. For example, it’s not possible to get a flu shot in Cabo. They’re unprepared and will be surprised, when something unsurprising happens.

Rerun the math on incubation and positives: five-day positive test growth rate is 37% with 160 yesterday. County figures not out yet so don’t know Boulder County.

It will be interesting to see how we were wrong about virus growth, in hindsight. How large a magnitude are we missing right now?


College kids partying – start testing them and widely-publicizing their deaths and positives. These kids respond to fear and authority.


Letting the mail sit in the box overnight, then opening away from my desk/kids/keyboard and washing hands afterwards. Main risk would be our man, Reno, getting respiratory droplets on it.



  1. Iran released 85,000 prisoners, probably after a big chunk were infected.
  2. EU closed its borders for 30 days


Home School

2020-03-17 08.20.42

Axel Set The Schedule

Big Picture:

  • The actual learning we need to achieve isn’t that much – if you are a alpha-go-getter then you’re going to burn your entire family out if the pace is too high – check out the pace used at the best schools for your kids’ age
  • We will run a 3:1 day cycle (on/off)
  • This implies a need for 45-days of lesson plans
  • Our school district is great – the benefits of a large PUBLIC education system! I suspect the private education sector will need to tag along with the best public system. BVSD can easily share into other districts.
  • We will split the school day between mom/dad and stay out of each other’s lessons. Pacing!
  • No phones at school

2020-03-17 10.28.27

Our elementary school has a bird for a mascot. The teachers award paper feathers for outstanding behavior and the kids stick these feathers on a big bird on the front hall of the school. Axel came up with a craft idea to make a big BYRN so we had something to stick out feathers on. He’s been outstanding. I gave him a feather for leadership.

2020-03-17 04.40.46

Math Enrichment

  1. Lexi – intro to probability – carrying on from fractions
  2. Axel – multiplication with carrying & learning how to work with perimeter measurement
  3. Bella – intro to 2d and 3d shapes, scavenger hunt around the house to find/draw geometric shapes (six per page/shape)

Added “Anti-Coloring Book” app to Bella’s iPad for her to try

Started Science with The Tiny Seed from Amazon Prime – slowed them down after recess – 10 min movie.

Main Science lesson plan was first experiment in mind-blowing science – talked about gases, liquids, solids

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  • Don’t become a casualty
  • Create a new routine, then maintain it
  • Exercise in nature
  • Eat good food
  • The online group I train with,, has a $9 7-week plan you can buy.

I didn’t get a picture of myself yelling down the basement stairs when my oldest kicked her brother. My voice box was sore for hours! Our youngest hid under a table for 20-minutes. So, it is not all Kum-by-ya and home baking here.

Still, we are doing better than I would have expected, thanks to TINA => There Is No Alternative

  1. Keep your standards
  2. Get dressed in the morning
  3. Leave the house (we lap the block to start home school)
  4. No zeros
  5. Start an online contest (I’m tracking pullups in March)
  6. Buy a home exercise plan – Monica and I each have new plans


Corona Diary 16 March 2020

2020-03-16 10.49.45

Told Monica I expected a limit down open (off 5%). Got that, and more across the day.

Fed cuts rates to 0%. Didn’t think that would matter, and it didn’t.

My view, total US lockdown by the end of the month

Sending our aupair back to Sweden, if she can get there – perhaps via Canada (nope, they locked down). Decision was simple once we each asked ourselves… where would I like to be? Home, naturally.

Kids being home schooled, we’ve self isolated since Thursday but there are interactions that have happened since then. Won’t get a true lockdown until this evening when Monica returns from the airport.

My To Do:

  • Get on iPads
  • Get on iPads
  • Get the anti coloring book app
  • Week’s worth of clothes packed in a ready bag
  • Cars gassed up

Kids love homeschool, which we are calling Daddy School, or Corona School amongst ourselves.

Lexi designed our first day. We started late because the kids were making cards for Moa, our aupair.

Kinda crazy teaching kids, searching flights and rebalancing into a plummeting market.

I expect the US will be locked down internal/external and tourists told to go home. If I had to guess then by next Monday.

Things are moving extremely fast. Choices that seemed extreme four days ago, now seem to have been prudent.

Eagle County still rationing testing, but have improved their message. Hope Colorado’s director of public health checks out how South Korea slowed the spread. There must be a shortage of testing capacity. Monica saw plenty of people out at Vail Pass yesterday when she drove home. People partying in Downtown Nashville. That’s going to change once American deaths tick up.

We tend to under-react then over-react => remember 9/11.

Axel’s recess, and lunch break activity, was football with me – his idea of heaven.

Pack City, UT taking this serious // note this action was taken after the FIRST community positive =>

Vail still open as far as I know. Significant public health failure on their part but completely understandable to try to get through Spring Break and avoid certain financial pain. It’s going to be so much worse, unfortunately.

Asians would have the national guard taking temperatures at Vail Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel. The high-country is easy to lock down.

Rebalancing again, the numbers were dropping faster than I could update my spreadsheet

2020-03-16 10.50.43

Monica ran a baking “special” during school – huge hit and the kids handled all the clean up. Lots of Home-Econ coming their way.

I think we are going to see Europe and the USA lockdown. I have no idea what that’s going to mean for the world. Definitely, not good economically and I have no idea what happens when you shut down that much economic activity.

Canada shut it’s border to everyone other than residents, citizens and US residents/Green Card. Australia/NZ/Israel 14-day isolation for arrivals – we’re all heading that way. That’s why I made it super easy for our aupair to go home. She was due to finish early May anyone. Now, we are officially on our own.

Writing assignment for the kids was a description of the first day of home school – Lexi wrote fiction, others discussed my delicious pancakes! They’re happy in their own world. We read the stories to each other. It was nice.

Our aupair was in Florida, she didn’t bring her passport with her. In the time it took her to get back to Colorado, Denmark/Canada/Norway closed borders. Big effort to try to get her out of USA. Monica spent the day at the airport. Still there as I post this. In the end got a cheap flight ($611) to get her home. Hope the plane takes off back to Europe.

Beautiful day here in Boulder. Axel and I played football on the upper field of Flatirons Elementary. Just a few people walking around. Nobody using the field, perhaps we’re not supposed to be there.

Anything highly leveraged is toast. Business activity will be going straight off a cliff. Doing what I can for small local businesses – how will they make rent if they can’t open? Romney recommending $1,000 UBI for every adult in the USA. Airlines asking for $50 billion.

SP500 is just about 30% down from the peak. Sale of a lifetime. I expect financial markets to fall much further.

Fear and Panic

Yesterday, my local CostCo sold out of Charmin in 15 minutes.

My cognitive capacity is so lit up I can’t remember my daily calendar.

Stress makes us stupid.


#1 – execute my strategy, made before the current crisis

One of the nice things about following a rebalancing strategy is you are very likely to have sold (a little) at the peak. My pre-crisis rebalancing happened January 4th and I sold enough to cushion the psychological impact of recent declines.

I rebalanced on Monday and again today.

Limit down opens => phew!

#2 – lean into fear

Since 2014, my portfolio assets have been 60/40 in equities/bonds. For the last six years, I’ve expected bonds to get hammered by rising rates. It didn’t happen. Been wrong the entire time but it didn’t hurt me.

For my long-term capital, I’d rather use a 90/10 strategy (90% in equities). The trouble is getting there. I have zero confidence in my ability to pick the right time to shift. So I created a re-weighting strategy based on VTSAX/SP500.

A simple rule: as the market moves from 20% down to 50% down, I will rebalance equities upwards from 60% to 90% of portfolio holdings.

Today’s rebalance moved me to 63/37. The 63 is held 42/21 VTSAX/VTIAX.

Simple to execute => each time, I rebalance I check the %age off the peak, if we’ve set a new low then adjust the equity weighting upwards. Otherwise, steady as she goes.

This simple strategy is not easy to do => either I want to rush more money in (FOMO) or hold money back (plain old fear).

#3 – real estate

When your neighbors are stocking up on TP in preparation for the end times… it’s generally not a good time to be selling real estate.

What about buying? Real estate prices respond much more slowly to feelings/sentiment. At the last downturn, local real estate didn’t “get cheap” until 18-24 months after the crisis.

I suspect we’re going to see the residential market stop dead for a few months.

After that? I have no idea.

#4 – family

My family has been watching me stock the house for three weeks. They were amused but now we are ready.

I’ve been reassuring the kids they are going to be OK. There’s a lot of fear around.

At school, our youngest heard that “old people” were dying. She took me to one side and asked if I was going to be ok => Yes, Sweetie, I’m going to make it.

That said, a finance background is useful for understanding the impact of compounding. Our state saw a 33% increase in positive tests today. Keep that going through the end Spring Break and we will have 4,200 positives in 16 days (from 44 at Noon today).

Notwithstanding an absence of positive tests in Boulder County, I’m going to start home schooling on Monday. A significant burden on myself but a small price to slow the spread.

#5 – community

Will Colorado’s experience follow Italy, Hong Kong or Taiwan? I don’t know.

What we know for certain is there will be a large, sudden burden on the lower end of our communities. Consider giving a sizable donation to your local food bank.

We also know we will save lives by staying away from each other.

#6 – immunity

Something simple, but not easy, for readers of this blog => cut your training in half.

Take your program, cut it in half and watch what happens with the infection rate in your state.

If your state is on a log-scale infection rate then it will become apparent far more quickly than any fitness loss.

Your immunity will get a boost from this change and you’ll preserve all the health benefits from exercise.

#7 – cash, debt and leverage

If you have an emergency fund then this would be a good time to make sure it is liquid. I have three-months expenses sitting in my checking account.

Not willing to lean into the market downturn? Consider using surplus cash to pay down debt.

If the downturn persists then do you know what can ruin you? There are many types of leverage => I’ve written about this a lot.





Habits and Happiness


Two recent reads: Atomic Habits and Willpower Doesn’t Work.

What I got from them…

Drive all knowledge inwards. This is a very old lesson. For best results, apply teachings on yourself first => do this for a very, very long time.

Many of the changes I have made (in the last five years) are in anticipation of being surrounded by high-energy teenagers and the conversations we are going to be having years from now.

When you are making positive changes, expect the people around you to get uncomfortable and test you. Don’t be surprised if the people closest to you start to bring up the errors of your past. When that happens I smile to myself, “They clearly have nothing recent to use. I’m making progress!”

Pay attention to the “why.” Many of us desire improved habits to cram more into our lives. More money, more beauty, more external success… chances are you have enough already.

Whenever I want to make a significant change in my life, I must create space, and mental bandwidth, to step outside my existing habits.

With three kids, some of the most valuable time in my life feels a lot like “empty” space, or even “wasted” space. I see the folly of this thinking by inverting and asking, “What does stress feel like?” => rushed, crowded, busy

What choices, am I repeating that, create stress? Social media, high-conflict people, cable news, an inability to say “no”…

What choice might create space?

What one thing, if it happened, could change everything?

Happiness is the gap between cravings. This gem is inside Atomic Habits. If you write a lot then sometimes you’ll spit out a deep truth.

Self-help doesn’t work because it teaches techniques we use to reinforce our cravings.

  1. How well do I know my cravings?
  2. Where are they likely to take me?
  3. What are the choices that reduce my cravings?

Using the techniques in the books to guide, or replace, cravings… very useful.

Understanding what’s driving my attraction to technology, social media… great stuff.

One example from my own life => connection and approval => I can get this, at a much deeper level, from a child than from Facebook.


Widen the space between cravings => improved feelings of wellbeing

Use the books to cram more into my life => probably a reduction in space and reinforcement of cravings => no improvement in wellbeing


Pay attention to what works.

  1. One win early
  2. Forests
  3. Routine
  4. Being slightly under-scheduled

Radical change might not be required.

A Gentle Reminder

2020-02-29 12.19.17

A month ago, I was sitting at the dinner table and started chuckling to myself.

My son asked what was so funny and I replied, “I just realized how hooped you people are without me.”

2020-02-28 14.38.41

My kids have two main negotiating tactics: repetition and whining.

Our oldest (11), has a wider range of tactics and I encourage her to deploy them against me. It’s good practice for the real world. Unfortunately, she also has a habit of subjecting her siblings to random dominance displays.

So the song of disorder has three notes:

  1. Repetition
  2. Whining
  3. Dominance

The reason I was laughing at dinner was I finally figured out my kids had a really, really, really crappy negotiating position.

Further, this crappy position is going to stay bad for at least five more years.

Five years is beyond forever.

2020-02-29 12.19.43

That evening, I had been working on family taxes, while trying to schedule house cleaning, grocery shopping and some time for myself.

Combining everything, I decided it was time to gently remind my kids that the entire structure of their lives falls apart if they decide to take me on.

My opener had three notes:

  1. Endorphins – no electronics while driving
  2. Status – no visiting our ski club restaurant
  3. Fear – reduction in number of days skiing

I gave them the following message, individually:

  1. Your teachers and coaches tell me you are outstanding. I need you to bring your outside behavior into our house.
  2. If you want the best life in Colorado then I’m going to need you to make one change.

The change being “no blocking” for our oldest and “no yelling inside” for the other two.

One change to get your iPad back in the car.

One change to get my house more live-able for the next decade.

2020-02-28 12.20.20

We skipped our family ski day the last two weeks, drove home and the kids helped me clean the house top-to-bottom.

Cleaning was “totally separate from the noise in the house issue…”

My son is a bit of a “bro-cleaner.”

Bro-anything is when you do such a crappy job that you hope to get fired and don’t have to do it again.

Ladies beware, you’ve likely been “bro’d” before => childcare, meal prep, shopping and cleaning. Bro-zone!

Anyhow, we discovered we each have a niche we enjoy doing (spray bottles, vacuuming with music, floors, toilets).

Effectively saves me $75 per hour while training my kids to live on their own.

A bonus you might not have considered… in the currency of personal freedom, cleaning generates the single largest return on investment within my marriage.

Your ability to deploy this strategy is inversely related to the square footage you own. Another hidden cost of assets we think will make us happy.

What’s the job you can not do?