Corona Diary 19 May 2020

2020-05-18 11.55.20

Kids wanted to go skiing so they made a ski hill (behind them), skis (on their feet) and went for it.

Getting it done!

Ax even made himself a snowboard, see below. The run is called “Feel The Byrn.”

2020-05-18 17.14.14

As part of our oldest’s summer learning, she’s going to be writing essays alongside a Middle School English teacher.

I’m going to take up the challenge => one essay per week, 999 words max, pull from the stuff on my site.

My topic list, so far:

  • Parenting
  • Marriage
  • Money
  • Wealth
  • Exercise – Strength Training, Cardio, Skills, Agility
  • Difficult People – both the optional type and the not-optional
  • Mastery

If there’s a topic where my writing has helped you then please ping me on twitter so I can add it to my list => 12 weeks of summer break.


Yesterday was the first hot day of the year => the kids overheated and there was a bit of drama after PE.

2020-05-18 15.49.16

Lexi’s mask selling business suffered a setback due a delay in securing bias tape for straps.

Monica managed to locate 14 packs and I took the opportunity to do a practical math lesson.

  • How many masks per pack?
  • How many packs?
  • Total masks you can make from all this tape in my hands?
  • Gross revenue from those masks?
  • What’s a fair slice of that revenue to pay me for the tape?

I also explained that, sometimes, suppliers will squeeze you when they know you have no alternative…


Summer school schedule coming together. We have four tutors lined up.

Why four?

It has to do with something I learned from my experience with babies and preschoolers.

Diversify key service providers so there’s always room for me to step up without my life going into disarray.

I could have handled home school on my own. However…

When we had three little ones, reliable childcare was a key risk in my life.

With the little ones around, I always made sure I could access more help than I needed. This freed my mind to think better during a very stressful time in my life, and marriage.

With economies opening up from lockdown, and unemployment high, this may be a good time to bring help into your life, and put money into your community.

2020-05-17 13.58.08

Quick Hits

The photo above is the kids working on their Corona Scrapbooks. They love this project. $11 per scrapbook on Amazon.

Yesterday, I forgot to mention my house was gently vibrating on Saturday afternoon => college kids being college kids a few blocks away from me. Excellent choice in music.

Hawaii 14-day in-room quarantine extended to end May, end June if you’re going to Kauai.

Article on Alaskan quarantine extension.

Self-paced summer learning for kids => provided by our school district

Tren posted this 2016 article link about a company in the news with regard to vaccine trials:

Markets trending up and close to all-time highs.

I see downside risk => so rebalanced back to my target position this morning. It was a small trade. My mind doesn’t seem to register the difference between large and small moves.

The tactic of “small moves” works with all kinds of things. Size down to meet the underlying urge, while minimizing the cost of error.


The President taking hydroxychloroquine is in the news. Some folks are saying there’s no proof it works.

People have very strong belief systems wrapped around their supplements and medications. Those belief systems often work for reasons we don’t fully understand.

I nearly always find it a low-return on investment to work against a client’s core belief system. Perhaps the White House doc has a similar view and adjusted the President’s dosage accordingly.

Corona Diary 18 May 2020

2020-05-17 09.31.37

Over the weekend we transplanted pumpkins and cucumbers. Also, got our basil and carrots in the ground. We didn’t get the usual “final blizzard” this May.

Saturday night a wildlife camera caught a BIG mountain lion in our alley and there was a moose in the local cemetery yesterday. The moose was sitting the shade munching all afternoon.

2020-05-17 15.58.48

Picture is from a friend – I have a policy to NEVER, EVER, EVER walk towards a moose.


Bella has a desk!

We’ve had the table for 12 years => The Land of Nod. We have three sets of legs so can change depending on what we need.

2020-05-16 10.03.27

Up on the wall you can see a photo progression of Monica’s third pregnancy. We have one for each of our babies.

Monica was outstanding at being pregnant!


Here is a summary of how Eagle County used their lockdown: widespread antibody testing (11.5% infection rate, 55,000 county population), build surge capacity in their hospital, and secure PPE to get through a surge.

I noticed a very, very low death and hospitalization rate vs what we’d been told to expect. Curious what antibody test/protocol they used (not that I’m qualified to understand!)

2020-05-17 09.32.15

Our governor was on Fox News Sunday and the interview was picked up by Politico.

By the time I read the article I was interpreting it far down the chain.

He must have done a good job getting his points across. The main things I noticed: he’s going to work with “the President we have” to benefit the people of Colorado; he wants schools to open; and there’s no excuse for missing academic targets.

Good messaging, continued solid leadership and an example of a politician focused on results.

2020-05-16 15.24.17

Many of my friends ignoring the guidelines to recreate near home => using forced downtime from work to ramp up spring training in the hills.

Locally, most people skipping masks.

Taught my kids about masks:

  1. Wear the whole time => once on, once off
  2. Don’t touch
  3. Do not move up/down as you move in/out of people


JC Penney – highly leveraged retailer went under on Friday

This morning’s news dominated by a vaccine moving to Phase Three trials. We’re told this is good news.


Overall, I’m very, very wary of “things I want to believe..”

Such as…

  1. I’m safe
  2. The virus doesn’t infect kids
  3. The vaccine will arrive in the fall
  4. I can’t get infected outside

I am prone to error because I deeply want to believe…

Home School and An Opportunity

4x6 Inside The Box with 15 boxes

My neighbor did a photoshoot for us and created the above image. If you’re local to BoCo and want her details then drop me a line.

2020-05-15 17.12.58

Got my home school outline done.

The kids are really into experimentation so I’m going to start Science Wednesdays once official school ends. I found a site with enough experiments to get me through the summer.

Family Science Fair will be July 4th. There’s a good 100 Things to do Before High School episode on science fairs => the whole series is good, by the way, on Prime Video.

For English/Book Reports, I bought the Uglies series for our new Grade Six and the Everest trilogy for our new Grade Four.

Something I’ve noticed with running The Byrn Academy for Personal Excellence. The main payoff with education of younger kids is free time for me and socialization for them. The academic component, in itself, take 60-120 minutes per day depending on their grade (finishing up grades 1, 3 and 5).

Despicable Me was our movie on Friday night – we loved it.


An Opportunity (if we take it)

Couple weeks back the WSJ had an article about rich folks having to take care of themselves => cleaning, cooking, shopping… stuff like that.

The horror of ordinary living!

I didn’t read the article => the headline gave me a big smile.

When you can find the joy in ordinary living then you’re a long way towards being robust to fate and fortune.

Late last summer, I made a decision to phase out all help (and it was a lot of help!).

It’s been very good for us and gave us a jumpstart on lockdown living.

Two key observations…

#1 // when you have people “cleaning up” after you then you have a constant incentive to let things slide

I wasn’t able to see just how much I let slide until I got rid of my cleaning staff.

A lot of good came out of this because…

When you stop letting things slide, it rolls across your entire life.

These habits go far, far beyond sweeping the floor!

#2 // walking around the neighborhood, the cleaners are returning – the hair stylists are reopening – staffing is returning to normal. It’s to be expected.


The crisis gives you an opportunity to turn hassles into habits.

Best estimate, we’re going to be on quasi-lockdown for ~500 days.

Every single thing you repeat daily is going to be a deeply ingrained habit by the time a vaccine is deployed.

Allstar or Alcoholic?

Choose Wisely.


Corona Diary 15 May 2020

2020-05-14 07.31.04

Ax-man crushed his strength workout yesterday: sandbag cleans/getups, walking lunges, floor press, pull ups, squat jumps, kneeling half moons… all our favorites.

The kids are having a great time and I find myself rolling along, largely on autopilot.

I’d stopped counting days but Ax-man is keeping me posted. He heard there was a big party coming up on Day 100…

Our next transition happens next week, online education support ends. In case you’re interested here’s my outline for the first module of summer learning. I’ll share the basic week schedule once I figure it out.

It’s challenging to stay focused across long time periods. Staying engaged is far better than the alternative of letting things slide.

2020-05-14 08.20.54

Above is Ax’s Mother’s Day poem – kids are great!

Summer school projects

  • Science fair
  • COVID scrap book – kids really into this one – I’ve been keeping mine online!
  • Make a board game

2020-05-14 11.08.13


CNN reporter explains international travel in East Asia.

This level of care and quarantine is coming to every country/region that puts out the Corona Fire.

Implication => the virtual elimination of all trips under 14-days duration.

Ironman Hawaii was rescheduled to Feb 2021 => that’s unlikely without a vaccine deployed. Why would Hawaii Dept of Health let that many people arrive for a short duration stay?

Implication => highly mobile people opting for extended stays in countries/regions that have COVID under control => relocation to live, relatively, normally through vaccine deployment.

2020-05-14 15.37.00

Quick Hits

Our youngest is riding a real bike (!) around town.

As we move out of lockdown, wouldn’t it be better to mobilize the unemployed, rather than giving them a financial incentive to stay-at-home and/or work in the underground economy?

Feed a kid.

After skipping earplugs in April, a hint of aircon and earplugs is enough to knock me into a deep deep sleep each night. The rapid onset of sleep is highly addictive for me => I can see how people get hooked on sleep aids.

My garage door broke and I fixed it on my own. This was a major personal victory!

Spent 90 minutes on the phone with Sun Run Solar yesterday – bottom line is $15,000 (net) buys $100 per month energy savings. Glad I spent the time. Install price will need to get closer to 7-year payback, with no inflation, to get me to pull the trigger.

Alternative to solar and far less money => purchase my wife a high-end pilates machine. Saves $150 per month membership fee and she will think kindly of me each time she uses it.

Kids loved Back To The Future #1 and #3.

Back To The Future #2 wasn’t great and we pulled the plug mid-way. Ax-man summed up our issue with the film… “she had fake boobs and everyone was saying bitch all the time.”

Clone Wars Series on Disney+ is popular with Ax-man. Girls are take it, or leave it.

Below is fun => our two youngest made a “swimming pool” in the basement. They actually swim in this thing…

2020-05-15 05.00.56

There are front flips done off the “diving platform” when I’m not around.


Estimates of Outcome in Fat Tailed Distributions

NNT’s simple rule of thumb for fat tails: never make a point estimate (total deaths for example) or speak of the average.

Making point estimates was a key error of mine early in the crisis. It even got me a personal note from my Medical Mentor!

If you are interested then Mike’s Math Page goes deeper.

By the way, fat tails can work in your favor. They aren’t always bad news. NNT shares many useful examples in his writing.

2020-05-15 05.01.14

900 step ups this morning.

Next week goes to 1,000.

Stay Strong!

Assets with high holding costs

2020-05-13 13.49.25-1

With all the talk of indoor transmission being more likely (than outdoor), we’re moving martial arts outside whenever possible.


I’m going to chat you through the financials of a rental property I used to own in Tucson.

This will help you understand the situation facing airbnb hosts and other owners of assets with high holding costs.

  • Picture a condo, bought and furnished for $75,000.
  • The condo has a current value of $100,000.
  • The condo doesn’t have a loan against it but costs $8,500 per annum to hold (8.5% of value). The high cost to hold is due it being a fully furnished rental => things like taxes, HOA, cable, insurance, utilities…
  • The furnished rental does great and yields net cash flow of $4,500 per annum after all expenses, taxes and commissions => 6% of cost.

This was a good investment but I sold out, and switched into Boulder real estate, with a mortgage. Here’s what I switched into:

  • Cost to hold the house (mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance) => 3% per annum vs 8.5% for the condo. Without the mortgage, the cost to hold the house drops to 1.25%.
  • Worth emphasizing the debt-free annual cost to hold comparison => condo 8.5% vs house 1.25%
  • House has rights to land, condo doesn’t include any land rights.
  • House has alternative uses… can live in it for the cost to hold, or rent and receive a net yield of 1.5% (2.75% excluding the mortgage).

Both locations worked out.

I checked on the condos yesterday and they were selling at ~$150,000 pre-virus, up significantly from 2008-2010 crisis values.  Boulder housing has seen similar appreciation.

What concerned me in 2012, when I sold, was the high cost of ownership, which can bite in a downturn.

Picture the condo debt financed => this is the issue facing aggressive airbnb hosts

  • A $75,000 purchase, with a mortgage of $65,000 against the property
  • To buy the place, you needed $10,000 of equity, which appreciates to $35,000 as the capital value rises (on paper) to $100,000.
  • The paper profit is 3.5x your money (yay) => you get this from 33% market appreciation, similar to what has been seen in many markets over the last 3-5 years.
  • But… the Virus pops up and the property is going to cost you $7,500 of new cash to hold for the 1st year of the crisis => 7,500 / 35,000 is a negative 21% return on equity.

All of a sudden, the warm feeling of paper profits is replaced by the reality of writing checks, monthly, for a vacant rental.

Depending on your tax bracket, one year cost to hold might be the equivalent of the last three years profits.


The high cost to hold can bite in different situations.

Club Memberships => $50,000 to $250,000 membership initiation fees with annual dues of $5,000 to $25,000.

You can find yourself in a contractual relationship where you are required to pay 5-20% of membership value in a downturn.

Now picture a club with 10-20% of the membership unemployed, or ill with COVID.


In a world with: (a) very low discount rates; and (b) professional compensation under pressure, the “penalty” for paying through a downturn/crisis is accentuated.

Many asset owners are likely telling themselves they are simply facing “one bad season” and things will get back to normal soon.




Corona Diary 13 May 2020

2020-05-12 09.13.30

Ax-man ran-the-gauntlet at our local hospital yesterday => treatment on a plantar wart.

No sick kids in pediatrics => the protocol is telemedicine with a referral, if necessary, to the ER.

Plenty of hospital capacity right now.


Our school district published an outline of how they will play the fall.

Once we move to “protect your neighbors” then families who wish to continue with online education will need to shift to the district’s existing online platform (Boulder Universal).


California State University system announced a move to fall online learning. The first major domino to fall.

As I wrote a couple weeks ago => defer, defer, defer.

=> get your life under your own control and learn a marketable skill.


What can we infer from continued US positives and a supplemental $600 per week unemployment insurance payment?

There is an underground economy creating leakage within our soft-quarantine framework.


I don’t expect the President to wear a mask => he has a long track record of risk-seeking behavior (link is to my blog on Family Risks).

Focus on something useful.

Such as, a bottom-up movement of mask wearing, social distancing and bubble management.


Bring-your-bags is out of fashion at the supermarket due to the risk of cross-contamination.

We are taking our paper shopping bags and cutting them open for large-format craft paper.


If the US elects to let the virus keep rolling, slowly, then I would expect countries to impose travel restrictions for Americans. Same deal for developing world and other hotspot countries.

This has negative implications for any country, business or family relying on American travel to maintain financial viability.


Three Macro Thoughts

1./ If you are generating cash during the pandemic then where would you put it?

If I had “new money” then I could see myself allocating a portion to the stock market, notwithstanding (what appear to be) high valuations.

If you think interest rates are going to zero for 5-10 years, and fiat currencies are going to massively depreciate, then the stock market doesn’t look expensive to me.

This mental exercise doesn’t have an impact on what I’m actually doing. Yesterday saw a small rebalance away from US Equities for a client’s portfolio.

2./ Inflation/Deflation => strikes me as the outcome will be divergent. Divergent inflation has been a key part of the story for the last 20 years.

I expect some of the fastest, prior-inflating segments to deflate. The essential inflates, while the non-essential deflates.

Non-essential => things like brand-name education, luxury goods and travel & leisure => within that grouping, the businesses with large fixed costs will be subject to strong deflationary pressure.

Figuring this out isn’t a priority for me => making sure I’m OK regardless of outcome is how I like to organize my life.

3./ A collapse in the national restaurant industry seems possible. Some are thinking that this will, in turn, trigger deflation in commercial rents. Similar to the stock market, if we end up with a consensus view of 5-10 years of zero rates, then this need not translate to a collapse in capital values.

  • Checking the 10-year treasury => 0.67%.
  • The 30-year 1.37%.
  • VTSAX 1.87% (take that with a grain a salt as payouts are going to be under pressure).

Lots of uncertainty out there. I see a downward spiral in capital values as a possible outcome.


Our summer swim league was cancelled.

While expected, it was a disappointment for the kids.

I’m going to buy an inflatable pool as a hedge against an August (re)lockdown.


I did a 20-minute FTP test => the results (221w) were 20% below what I used to hold for five hours, before I ran a sub-2:50 marathon. 🙂

The only constant is change


Corona Diary 12 May 2020

2020-05-11 13.00.28.jpg

We turned our basement playroom into a home martial arts studio. Cost me $190 worth of Amazon mats.

Our oldest is moving into essay writing at online-school.

Her first topic => I Believe In Exercise


2020-05-11 19.36.25

Value the relationship more than my opinion…

2020-05-11 19.03.46

Howard Marks’ latest: what caught my eye, “if you’ve got nothing additive to say then don’t say it.” He’s also advising himself to read and focus on philosophical musings.

First internal US quarantines: Alaska and Hawaii reported to be requiring 14-day self-isolation on arrival.

Spain announced 14-day quarantine for international arrivals.

Wearing a mask, but not covering your nose => reminds me of cyclists who clip their helmets to their handlebars.

Camping re-opens today, in Colorado. I’m hopeful to climb summer peaks, well off the beaten path, with my son.

Only a handful of online school days left for us.

Second-to-last week of my Big Mountain training plan starts tomorrow. Ten workouts to go.

My Personal Pandemic Plan

2020-05-10 07.34.24

Mother’s Day went great => we tried a new cake recipe.

2020-05-09 15.05.19

I’m not going to wait for the government to tell me what to do.

The correct course of action seems obvious, at least through the end of June.

1./ Keep home school rolling => I’m going to roll five-week blocks.

The key to making home school work is a written schedule and hiring a tutor (for the child who most resists my instruction, but loves to learn).

A schedule, combined with non-parent support/accountability, drops in-house conflict to a level which we can handle, as long as required.

Why am I planning to roll the status quo?

Boulder county health department is advising local businesses to prepare for Safer-at-Home to continue through to vaccine deployment. This isn’t official policy, it is what they are telling proactive businesses, who are meeting with them and discussing the way forward.

My expectation: I will need to roll home school through the start of next academic year, and possibly beyond.

Find my way to an independent life that works => repeat and iterate.

This makes my family life robust to the decisions of my neighbors, and my government.

2020-05-10 07.44.08

Even if my government tells me everything is hunky dory, there are reasons to be cautious.

2./ Catch the virus, later => “They” tell me it’s unlikely I’ll end up in the hospital but I’m not keen on rolling the dice!

Getting sick later strikes me as a far better bet than getting sick sooner.

“Later” is likely to have more effective treatment protocols.

I think we could see the virus run-the-table in Colorado.

  • North / South of me, are pockets of the population agitating for their right to self-infect.
  • We don’t have effective restrictions on intrastate travel, so the newly infected are going to be spreading the virus throughout Colorado.
  • Our hottest hotspot is ~50 miles from my house, in a meatpacking plant where management refused free, onsite testing. Thankfully, the State set up free testing a mile down the road.

We normally see individual vs collective conflicts manifest with regard to gun ownership => the gun debate makes more sense when viewed through a lens of collective vs individual rights.

The debate over reopening reminds me of working in China in the mid-1990s, a time when smoking was seen as a way to assert individual independence and demonstrate personal courage.

Different situation, same psychology of misjudgment.


Here is a link to an article that helped me understand what it takes to catch the virus => exposure over time => the article includes practical examples of scenarios I’ve been considering.

To manage my running injury, I started riding my wife’s Peloton bike. Great product. In over 20 years of cycling, Peloton is the first time I’ve enjoyed riding indoors.

Get-sick-later reminds me of a favorite extreme-training mantra… Quit Later

Stay strong!

Summer School and What is Obvious

2020-05-07 18.21.44

Lexi made a narwhal!


Summer School

Here in BoCo, the academic year ends May 21st.

Summer camps are shut into June, at least. So my initial plan is five weeks of supplemental home school => that will take us through to the end of June.

Our school district is keeping the online resources rolling across the summer, things like Raz-Kids, iReady and Brain Pop.

I’m reaching out to teaching contacts for tutoring across the summer. We will keep using our neighborhood black belt for PE.

Two things I want to handle myself: (a) teaching the kids math; and (b) having them do their iReady lessons with me, so I can hear what’s really happening. All three have a slight weakness with spoken reading and vocabulary. It’s an area where 1-on-1 instruction is impactful.

The kids are already asking about their summer reading “bonus”. Each kid, who reads every day across the summer, gets a gift. It’s been a very successful program that spills into the normal school year by having them start every single day by reading to themselves.

2020-05-07 15.22.58

Social Network Consolidation

I’ve been spending too much time on social media.

I’m going to drop Facebook and Instagram for a bit.

Going forward, you can find me on Twitter, Strava or subscribe to this blog in the upper right hand corner.


What Is Obvious?

I’ve been asking myself this question over and over.

1/.  There will be a second wave of exponential infection => we are opening during a time of continued community spread. We have forgotten the nature of the virus => the virus arrived in Colorado via a single person on 2/29 => lockdown started 15 days later.

2/.  Fear will persist beyond the time horizons of our best-case scenarios.

3/.  Luxury, and aspirational, spending will plummet.

4/.  When you furlough staff and cancel capex plans, it is impossible to restart quickly, even if you want to.

5/.  There is a pressing need for tax increases => the nature of these tax increases is not obvious.

6/.  There will be continued feelings of blame and anger => this will manifest everywhere, regardless of personal/political affiliation.

7/.  This crisis has a psychological end-point (vaccine deployment) => wars, recessions and depressions don’t have this sort of endpoint, so close to the beginning.

Corona Diary 7 May 2020

2020-05-07 09.14.07

Interesting to see docs, risk specialists and science profs share their ideas.

Here’s a few links that might interest:

Doc John discussing whether it makes sense to flatten. John has credibility with me because: (a) when he writes about niches I know very well (exercise), he makes sense; and (b) he’s willing to share observations that work against his financial and business interests.

Doc John extracting from a Swedish report that’s similar in tone to his blog – link to the report itself included in his post.

As an aside, the best thing I learned from Doc John was an observation, “good luck with convincing the endurance cohort of that reality.”

Another way of saying… when truth bumps into a core belief, expect the core belief to win.

Carl B, Biology Prof, countering the view that there is the same “area under the curve” whether it is flat, or not  => less of an overshoot means less death. Not directly in response to Doc John’s blog but explaining important considerations.

We have:

  1. multiple commentators, all more experienced than me
  2. all arguments emotionally appealing to a lay audience
  3. no consensus
  4. debate over future outcomes of complex systems

My take => proven exponential growth of a pathogen that is not well understood by the experts => therefore, lean heavily towards precaution. The burden of proof falls to the risk seekers.

2020-05-07 09.12.37.jpg

Also saw an interesting comment out of Sweden => a senior public health official was surprised they couldn’t keep the virus out of elderly care facilities, facilities which were locked down. We saw the same thing in Colorado, just down the street from me and elsewhere.

External quarantine starting in NYC:

Study on COVID and kids coming:

I’ll end the tweet summary with a useful reminder from Taleb:

Sometimes, all I need to do is find is one counter example to demolish my faulty thinking.

Neiman Marcus followed J Crew’s recent bankruptcy.