This is lockdown

2020-04-29 16.00.51

One of the questions I see in the news.

Are we willing to accept a lower standard of living to have a more robust society?

That’s a lot of faulty thinking packed into 16 words.

The question is asked with regard to securing masks and protective equipment.

Most of us aren’t making buying decisions for our nation’s strategic stockpile. Instead, we make daily choices, with the potential to make our lives miserable, if we don’t pay attention to them.

Somewhere inside the middle of our connections is a default position on a host of issues.

  • More vs Less
  • Time cost of money
  • The true, largely emotional, cost of possessions
  • The value of the ability to control our schedules
  • What is right

Usually, it is difficult to see how deeply our default positions penetrate our lives.

These are not usual times!

April was a month where every single one of us was stress tested.

  • Defining Success: How did you do?
  • Relationships: What about your marriage? Your family? Your kids?
  • Mistakes: What mistakes did you make? Can you own your mistakes, even in public?
  • Lack: On the toughest days, what was lacking?

Resist the urge to point the finger outwards, too much of that happening.

How did you do?

April took a lot of “things” away from us.

Under a high level of stress we fell into our deepest patterns.

What did you notice?

If you’d described April 2020 to me in 2019 then I would have predicted misery.

Misery, with absolute certainty.

Yet, I wasn’t any more miserable than usual.

I’m similar => good days, and difficulties => high energy, and low => productive, and frustrated.

Pay attention to thoughts that are best ignored and not acted upon.

Be careful what you talk yourself into.


DFW – this is water


Corona Diary 29 April 2020

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Yesterday, we watched Adventures in Babysitting (2016 version) and my wife treated us to Taco Tuesday.

We had fun!

I even ate a taco.

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My left hamstring is smashed from my program => this morning was 72 minutes of feeling amazing then 18 minutes of damage control.  So far, I have recovered quickly from my niggles.

I’ve been reminding myself that no one cried on Friday!



Not surprised by this one…

Japan’s Abe Says No Tokyo Olympics Next Year Unless COVID-19 Can Be Contained : Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR


A very useful reminder.

For me, writing is the first step toward making my mistakes more visible.

Once I can see mistakes, I can start to figure out how to replace habits and avoid certain situations.

Historically, replacement/avoidance works a whole lot better than seeking to transcend myself.


The linked thread is a quick read on the role of central quarantine in Asia.

Click the date above for the full thread. The most useful part was the explanation of why keeping slightly sick people home is a bad idea.

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Colorado is slowly opening with ongoing community spread within a highly connected state/country. I expect we will need a form of central quarantine.

…but I could be wrong.

My expectation was wrong about Florida (links to their DOH dashboard). So far, Florida appears to have grown slower than our experience in Colorado => they have more than 5x our 65+ population (Kaiser Demographics).

My expectation about our rate of hospitalization was also wrong. It’s been growing slower than our positives for the last ten days. A fact pointed out by our governor at yesterday’s press conference.

You can track our hospital data here. The State is tracking capacity for ICU beds, staffing and ventilators. They also track discharges vs admissions.


The pic in the tweet below shows the layout of a 20-person dorm room.

Picture a thousand of these dorm rooms, in close proximity, and you can see how the virus might blow up quickly.

I wonder where we have dormitory housing in Colorado and the US.

A buddy in Eagle County said he felt employee housing was a key risk in the high country.


Free testing for the next two days at our local university. A short walk from where I live.

Testing is getting a lot of attention by our State Government and with the Governor’s press conferences.

I saw a picture of Vail’s mayor (now recovered), donating blood so his plasma could be used to help others. The link is to an article about a mobile collection center set up in Colorado’s hottest hotspot, now considerably cooler in terms of rate of daily positives.

Colorado & Nevada joined the Western States coalition with Washington, Oregon and California.


An interesting idea => certain universities have the capacity to create on-campus testing, trace and isolation.

We’re going to see a lot of creative experimentation as we iterate across the next year.


We remain under a stay-at-home order => extending to what will be Day 56, for us.

If I was unemployed, with three kids, looking at a cash flow projection showing I’m about to be completely screwed… lockdown would be wearing thin and I’d be demanding the right to take personal risk to care for my family.

Meanwhile, I will keep grinding and figure out a family project for the weekend.

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First sprouts of the 2020 growing season!


Make Your Fate

These popped up all over our neighborhood this week. They were effective with my family.

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Your senior prom has gone up in smoke, your summer job fell through and you’re sitting at home with your parents.

What to do?

Get your life under the control of your own choices.

  • This isn’t going to blow over.
  • Nobody’s coming to save you.
  • Time to self rescue by creating optionality in your life.

Defer college => it’s likely to be a mess, at short notice, this fall

16-months until the 2021/2022 academic year begins => learn something useful => for example, Lambda School – 9 month, 40 hours per week program.

Get ridiculously strong => no access to a gym? Gym Closure #1 and Gym Closure #2.

Own your #1 time waster => stop it, today.

Wake up first in your household, get your training done before breakfast => do this every single day for 500 days.

500 days is the distance between now and the start of the 2021/2022 academic year.

What one habit would change everything?

Take advantage of the opportunity of time.

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Lockdown Weight Gain, AKA Feeling Free to Ignore My Irrational Beliefs

For the first month of lockdown, I felt like I was gaining weight each week.

I sensed weight gain was happening on the weekends, when I back off and recover from my program.

Weekends are ~15,000 steps per day => I’m not inactive, it’s the constant grazing that creates issues.

Anyhow, I went back to basics (link is to my nutrition strategy):

  • Cranked my intake of veggies – extra fine green beans from CostCo and broccoli => use them as a base on my meals and dropped the amount of quinoa I eat
  • Substitute salt for cheese

1/ I also gave myself some context by checking in with reality. My BMI moved from 22 to 23 => so my feelings of being gigantic and bloated, while real to me, are not grounded in reality.

2/ An interesting thing about body image is I’ve always looked different when I see myself in a picture, rather than a mirror. Probably has something to do with what part of my brain is doing the assessment.

Regarding 1 & 2, I pay attention when “irrational” views persist.

Self knowledge helps me (a) resist the urge to take decisive action on irrational views; and (b) frees me to take my opinions less seriously.

Worth repeating – take my thoughts less seriously and be comfortable not taking bold action in a time of great uncertainty.

Fits in nicely with my goal of becoming more patient with my kids.

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Investment Strategy

Thinking about Buffett/Munger sitting on cash and not taking action. A reminder to myself that there’s no rush to move from my current position.

Not changing minimizes switching costs and preserves the option to change later.

Not choosing can be a choice to avoid an unforced error.

Meditating on this observation is useful in a world that seems “far too expensive” relative to how screwed up it is!


Quick Links

University of Victoria Home Learning Guide

Yesterday I mentioned that Colorado’s rate of daily positives had popped. Digging deeper into the data (slide down), the increase happened in line with Colorado’s testing capacity doubling.

Gates interview on Vox.

Vail resorts took the wind out of the class action suits and addressed my concerns about next ski season. I’m impressed with them as an organization. They know what I want, better than I do. I’ll probably buy a set of Epic Passes – thereby helping to preserve their business model.

My neighborhood “howls” each night at 8pm => first people, then their dogs.

I achieved 6 out of 7 goals for April. Decided to let go of my plan to move the kids ahead in math => wouldn’t have made anyone happy.

Corona Diary 27 April 2020


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We are starting to see the turkey problem appear in decision making.

Because you haven’t had major problems in the last little while, you assume things are going to be just fine.

Of course this depends on what you describe as “major.” The macro numbers are grim and incredible.

We are all in the mood to fool ourselves.

Magical thinking.


My topic of conversation with the kids at breakfast this morning.

Kids, I want you to remember that I don’t want to get sick.

I’m counting on you to continue to be smart.


Our local Elk’s Club is gearing up for social distance lap swim.

  • Book an 80-minute slot
  • Swim for an hour with ten minutes before/after to come/go
  • 1-2 people per lane, same household only
  • Outdoor pool, open gate, no change rooms, no surfaces to touch

Something to think about if your community has an outdoor pool. They built a simple website and the income will be useful to keep the lights on for a community organization.

This is the longest non-swimming block of my wife’s life. She started as a toddler.


Our state stay-at-home order expired yesterday.

Boulder County (and most other Colorado counties with lots of people) extended the stay-at-home order.

Significant pop in Colorado’s positives over the last three days. Seeing the five-day average jump upwards for the final week of lockdown is not what I expected.


Perhaps it’s a timing issue with reporting.

It doesn’t bode well for the summer.


Related to the lockdown stuff, Ax and I have started wearing masks on the trails. I got him on board by telling him that it “makes other people feel better.”

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I noticed a spot on my thigh last week – irregular shape, multi-colored, slightly raised – most definitely not what you want to find on your skin during lockdown!

All I had at home was Bacitracin Zinc, Neosporin and Clotrimazole => left over stuff from diaper-days.

Thankfully, one of them did the trick, or I healed on my own.



Australia and New Zealand turning the corner, perhaps.

What do they have in common?

  • Ability to isolate => no long land borders
  • Early imposition of quarantine on international arrivals
  • Cultural pride in self-sufficiency and a lack of stupidity
  • An understanding that nobody is coming to save them
  • Experience making trade-offs with limited resources

American social distancing is leaky and we have highly connected internal/external land borders.

We should expect our experience to be different than the best of the city-states of East Asia and islands of Oceania


Two things on my “to do” list for this week:

  1. make a list of “things that are obvious” about the virus
  2. draft a basic week for a summer without camps or swim league => online education is going to end May 21st


Aside from University Education and Medicine => what are other admin-heavy sectors that have benefited from money pouring into them?

Look for sectors with long-term price inflation far ahead of the mean.


Weekend Highlights

The kids take comfort in having a schedule. Even on our unstructured day, our youngest wanted me to type out a game plan.

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Recent movies:

  • Incredibles – done as a day movie on Sunday – gives an option for a parent nap!
  • A Monster in Paris – all three kids were rapt
  • Episode 2 of the Star Wars franchise
  • The Willoughbys – weird one, but girls watched

Our oldest did a FaceTime call with a buddy, teaching her how to make masks. Kept her occupied for a couple hours!

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What can your kid teach other kids?

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Saw our neighbors filled their “Little Library” with canned goods for anyone passing by.

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Saturday & Sunday I write myself three items of cleaning to get done. The weekends remind me that being online is usually a distraction from doing what needs to be done.

Kids are required to do one session of cleaning each week (usually on Sunday). Beyond that I pay. Last week’s cleaning bill was $10.

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Sunday afternoon was pea planting for Axel, while Bella washed a car.

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Bella’s car wash, $5 a vehicle!

Finished The Body by Bill Bryson – entertaining read – much lighter going than the last book I read.


Monday highlights…

I’m figuring out my 80-pound sandbag – links to sandbag getup exercise.

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Getting up off the floor with a weight on your chest and shoulder => functional!

Another week of shopping => done!

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I learn about myself by tracking my perceived difficulties.

Much of what I thought was difficult pre-Corona turned out to be quite useful during Corona!

Can you remember your problems from February?


Corona Diary 24 April 2020

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Above => Axel doing kneeling plate half moons – legit (!) exercise – first thing that’s made him sore training with me.

We watched the Phantom Menace on Disney+ last night. Enjoyed it.

We’ve settled into an evening routine where we put on a movie and do breaks where everyone sits down to eat dinner in stages. Slows the kids down and spreads out the duration of the movie. I have a tendency to graze the entire time, though!


A better understanding of where/how transmission happens will be useful to figure out how we come out of lockdown.

As a family, opening the outdoors is more helpful than being able to access indoor areas. Looking unlikely that I’ll want to expose myself, or my family, to high-traffic surfaces or public indoor spaces anytime soon.


There is a useful “what we need to learn list” inside the article called The First Modern Pandemic, you can find it linked on the front page of Gates Notes.


The table below is our state trend under the stay-at-home order.


Calculate (a) 40-days of growth at (b) 5% per day as we reopen with (c) ~350 positives…

…~2,500 positives per day.

Lots of movement in the numbers depending on A-B-C => tremendous uncertainty, with a virus that is poorly understood.

Some local discussion about our Governor opening “too early.” He’s made it clear that “safer at home” isn’t an opening, at all.

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Here’s why I left my desk job 20 years ago => 1, 2 and 3 => 4 was a life review about where my choices were likely to take me over the following ten years.


Craft Idea => fuse bead bowl, fill with painted rocks, write a letter then deliver to a friend

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Older kids can color-code the bowl, or put the first letter of the recipient’s name in the base.


Our city council dropped the speed limit in residential neighborhoods to 20 mph. With the reduced traffic, my neighborhood has become bike friendly. Yay!

In other local news, our University President took a 10% pay cut. This is far from enough => he’s likely to be furloughing most his teaching staff, slashing administrative positions and making across-the-board pay cuts for the survivors.

Picture mid-July, Colorado is under its second stay-at-home order, what’s the right thing to do with the ~33,000 kids looking to return the following month?

I hope I’m wrong => my expectation implies all kinds of pain for my hometown.


Class action suit launched against the parent companies of the Ikon and Epic ski passes.

Corona Diary 23 April 2020

We rolled through Day 40, yesterday. That’s a big block of time and we’ve used it well.

More guidelines from our governor about the shift from “Stay at Home” to “Safer at Home” => bottom line for us, not much change.

Two things caught my eye: childcare coming back on line and group size capped at 10 people.


Came to a realization about home school:

On any given day, I’m going to get yelled at, listen to bickering and deal with kids crying.

Just the way it is.

One thing for sure => whatever happens, it usually goes better with a limited reaction from me.

Keep grinding!


Does your kid think out loud, or process by verbalizing her questions?

Know that you have an option to stand by while she figures things out for herself.

Not engaging, not answering, is a tough habit to break but quite useful if you find yourself in a pattern that “drives you nuts.”

I let our youngest answer obvious questions – she loves the role of the wise sibling!


Our rolling average positives are growing and our testing positivity rate is staying in the high teens.

Typing this on the morning of Day 41, even with our Stay-at-Home order, we have not seen a plateau in positives.

A senior care home down the hill from us (about 3 miles away) has become a hotspot in Boulder County => 30 positives and six deaths reported, as of yesterday.

Eagle County buses are reopening May 4th with a maximum occupancy of 10 passengers, using only the rear door.

Corona Diary 22 April 2020

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Below is a useful graphic from our state government about the process of reopening Colorado.

We’ve been told to expect to move along a spectrum: (a) Stay at Home; (b) Safer at Home; and (c) Protect Our Neighbors.


I like the way they’ve framed the chart. Note the two lines at the bottom of the chart and the arrow pointing both directions.

More graphics to facilitate discussions at home are here.

PE Idea – word of the day – it is an A to Z of activity. Ax-man rolled the entire alphabet at recess.

Teachers packing up the classroom today – Monz and Axel did a drive by – Bella wrote goodbye letters to staff and teachers. We pick up gear on Friday.

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Kids are well rested and up early most days. So this morning we planted seeds for indoor sprouting => cucumber, kale, bell pepper, tomato and pumpkin.

Last spring frost is ~May 9th for us.


Virus Stuff

Seeing discussion about the math underlying estimates of community exposure rates. Two things I learned very early in my private equity career: (a) hardly anyone understands math; and (b) show your work.

Professionally, you leave yourself very exposed when you use other people’s models. I always built my own, as simple as possible.

Some very experienced professionals are going be humbled.


Central quarantine is getting press – the ability to offer a safe place to recover from the virus, away from family/housemates, so you don’t infect your household.

When a dormitory, meat packing plant or prison blows up with infections => a lack of safe, central quarantine can be a likely factor. See yesterday’s link on Singapore.

I think Denver has built a facility along these lines – basically a field hospital with limited services. More things the state is doing can be seen here.

For asymptomatic folks, exposed and waiting to see what happens, there are a lot of empty hotel rooms around.

Something to watch as we head towards the next academic school year.

Corona Diary 21 April 2020

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Feds announced an executive order suspending immigration. I expected this as a political move, not for virus control.

Probably more useful things for the Feds to focus on => this will play well with their base.


Slide deck of first principles from Taleb’s writing:

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Above => Ax-man’s latest work in progress => Baby Yoda!


Singapore is getting press for virus positives “exploding” but look deeper into whom, and where, the positives are happening. Visiting laborers, living in dorms.

Migrant, disenfranchised labor is something common to many parts of the world, and consciously disregarded by most people. Asia/Middle East use a lot of this labor for their construction industries. Here in the US, it’s our agricultural sector.

Boulder has been pro-active with protecting the homeless, and ourselves, from bottom up epidemics. US seeing outbreaks in prisons and meat packing plants.

Everywhere with dense, dormitory housing is vulnerable.


I cancelled NetBricks.Org => they’re completely overloaded => reminded me of Yogi Berra => nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded


Sold a little bit of US Equities (VTSAX) yesterday to rebalance after last week’s run up.


An Israeli friend mentioned to my wife that she’s amazed the US isn’t using it’s military to assist with virus logistics.

This surprises me => in an election year, the Commander in Chief using the military to visibly help the nation would play well. Maybe it’s happening and I didn’t notice.

Here in Colorado the Governor is using the National Guard to assist with testing.


Week Six of remote learning:

  • WAY too much screen time for my kids => I have greatly reduced the use of screens on the days I run myself => Saturdays and any professional days, of which we just had two (Fri/Mon)
  • Impact of all this screen time is an inability for me to properly monitor my kids online => example being tweens “facetiming” but really doing joint surfing sessions on youtube watching sex videos.

A reminder why we don’t allow electronics use behind closed doors.

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Above => Havoc Journal challenges my blindspots and biases.


Our governor announced his roadmap for reopening.

As I expected, we’re going to reopen with positives having plateau’d, but not declining for 14 days as recommended in the Roadmap for Governors

I am going to act as if we will have our second lockdown in June.

As a result, I’m not going to sign up for any early summer camps for my kids. Instead, I’ll hire unemployed coaches/teachers to supplement “The Byrn Academy of Personal Excellence”.

I’ve written off all my early camp sign-ups, travel plans and prepayments of any sort. Whenever I get a refund, it’s a pleasant surprise.


Our school district closed all schools for the rest of the academic year. We heard Texas and Florida did the same.


The president’s liberation tweets got a fair amount of press.

The liberation episode reminded me of Bush 43 being a uniter, not a divider => famous quote from 2000 election.


Oil went negative in a squeeze related to the May contract.


We eat a lot of grapes…

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…and (some of us) drink a lot of celery juice (see over shoulder, above).

Eating healthy helps.

So does strength training…

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My wife woke up to the sound of her man pounding iron in the basement.

Bench press and hinge lift were featured.

Stay strong.

Corona Diary 20 April 2020

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Key things:

  • I don’t need to take a side
  • All-sides have valuable input

2020-04-18 09.26.15

Kids loved three movies over the weekend:

  • Zootopia – a classic
  • The Main Event – Netflix kid-wrestler movie
  • The Karate Kid – way back classic – “sweep the leg”

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Despite five weeks in lockdown, we’re not seeing a material drop in positives in Colorado. COVID is one contagious pathogen!

I’ve looked at virus growth different ways. Slide down for charts, probably won’t work well with a phone. I’m on my desktop for that work.

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Here’s a memory game to play.

Write down what you, think you, thought five weeks ago about:

  • Rate of growth of positives
  • Death rate
  • Hospitalization rate
  • Where your location could be if you didn’t lockdown

Monica and I played this game over the weekend.

After we played, I went back to check the data.

Despite building a spreadsheet and tracking daily… my memory was out by a factor of 17x. Monica’s memory was out by a factor of 350x.

Colorado was growing at 33% (daily) with an expected hospitalization rate of 20% and a forecast death rate of 1-4%. When we self-quarantined there were 72 positives.

(1.33)^(35) * 72 = 1.6 million total positives

The number was so large, I didn’t believe my HP-12C. So, I made a simple table to check my math => see the Growth Table tab.

The positives didn’t happen => nor were they likely to happen because we would have pooped our collective pants way before it got that bad.

We are at ~10,000 positives in Colorado, with the lockdown in effect. So the actual growth rate was ~15% daily across the period, with hospitalization rates not far off the expectation.

The death rate isn’t clear. It is going to take some time for us to have reliable all-cause mortality information.

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The memory game is important because your mind is (1) going to assess your decision based on what happened, not what could have happened.

Your mind is also (2) going to assess your decision based on what is known today, not what was know at the time you made your decision.

Your mind will (3) ignore the fact that life is path dependent.

  • Our ability to choose “now” is based on choices we made earlier
  • In places where hospitals are overflowing and their health system is breaking down, they will not have the ability to ease up on lockdown. They lost the ability to make a choice Colorado can make now.

Seeing all of the above (1/2/3), by placing one’s memory in the past, is something humans are spectacularly poor at doing.

  • Just the way it is.
  • This skill will never improve in the general population.
  • This is an area where calm, national, leadership can make a difference => see New Zealand and Germany.
  • Don’t spend energy railing again human nature.

I don’t explain this 1-on-1 to anyone other than clients, my wife and kids.

I write blogs to educate the collective.

By the way, this is the method I used to beat life-long endurance athletes, far more talented than me, when I started racing elite sport in my 30s,

Iterate based on experience, make mistakes visible.


Where to now?

Colorado is locked down with daily positives of ~340 per day, 14-day average.

We’re going to open up before we hit “0” and the rate of daily positives will grow.

From yesterday, if we maintain our current rate of growth (4% per day) then daily positives will be ~1,300 by the end of May.

We don’t have a lot of room to maneuver.


Watch Singapore and Indonesia => this virus doesn’t appear to care about climate.


Corona Diary 17 April 2020

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NY lockdown extended to May 15th => we’re at 35 days, that would take us up to 63 days.

Close Quarters reminder, when you’re getting fed up, don’t overlap. We needed a couple of days with less overlapping. The storms this week threw me off my game!

Our PE teacher, BJJ Black Belt, lives nearby – gave the kids his # in case something goes down and they need immediate back-up – great guy.

Thinking about theft

  • I realized that I didn’t have anything I’d miss at home. It’s one of the benefits of focusing on an outdoor life.
  • We have an all-risks policy for a couple of items and comprehensive coverage on our Yukon.
  • My life operates on the cloud so there isn’t even a concern over losing my hard drive => a legacy worry from early in my career.

Daughters are a gift.

2020-04-16 18.11.45

The Trickle Up Depression

I saw some stats on “ability to work at home” by demographic. I hadn’t focused on it.

  • Consider the economy in 20% tiers
  • Consider wealth across those same tiers
  • Consider unemployment rates by 20% tiers

Early in a downward cycle, it is straightforward for the managerial class to make large visible sacrifices. The senior professional class has been making ~$1,500 per hour for the last decade.

As the crisis continues, and you’ve cut your employees, with compensation rates 95-99% lower than your own, you need to start “looking around the table.”

When we get to that phase, you’ll see asset prices step down.

This is what I saw in Asia in the 90s.


This morning’s training session was #25 in my current plan.

I’m halfway through my 10-week Big Mountain training program and who knows how far through my first stay-at-home period.

The program is challenging and it’s a meaningful achievement to me.

Where are your wins?


More Chinese data discussion in the news.

Best response… worrying about lying is the least of their leadership’s concerns.

Not just them, I imagine.