Thursday, April 30, 2020

Apple: The Worst is Over

Despite the March plunge, Apple shares are 46.4% up from one year ago.
As a long-time Apple user and investor, your humble blogger has always taken a keen interest in its earnings reports. Today Apple reported quarterly sales and earnings of $53.3 billion and $11.25 billion, respectively. both better than recent forecasts lowered due to the pandemic.[bold added]
Apple’s services and wearables business proved to be the difference maker for the company in the March period, underscoring the value of its strategic shift from selling more devices to selling more services and accessories across those devices. Those businesses, which include App Store sales and AirPods wireless earbuds, surged 18% to $19.63 billion. Meanwhile, sales of the company’s legacy products—the iPhone, iPad and Mac—fell nearly 7% to $38.68 billion.
The 2020 new-iPhone's delays could have been much worse, so today's announcement counted as good news:
Apple is pushing production of this year’s flagship iPhones back by a month, which could delay sales of those devices from September until October or later. It also is cutting production volume for the four new models by about 20% as the coronavirus weakens consumer demand.
Apple's China operations have recovered:
Mr. Cook said that Apple’s operations team and suppliers have returned to work and production reached traditional levels by the end of March.
The information coming from China's government has been untrustworthy, but we do trust Tim Apple.

China has been 2-3 months ahead of the U.S. in battling COVID-19 outbreaks. If the timeline is replicated, we should be underway to recovery in June.

Headline - Bloomberg: Tim Cook Says Austria, Australia Apple Stores to Reopen in 1 to 2 Weeks
Perth Apple Store (Business Insider)
Tim Cook said that the company plans to reopen its retail stores in Austria and Australia beginning in the next one to two weeks.

Apple has one store in Austria and more than 20 in Australia.

Cook...said that he believes that “just a few, not a large number” of stores in the U.S. will re-open in the first half of May.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Foster City Company Saves the World

Gilead Sciences ($100 billion market cap) pulled up the entire market ($30 trillion) on Wednesday.
OK, "saving the world" is overblown, but it's not a complete exaggeration.

Government scientists reported that remdesivir, which is owned by Foster City-based Gilead Sciences, improved coronavirus patient outcomes:
The U.S. study compared recovery times for 1,063 hospitalized patients taking either remdesivir or placebo...

Patients taking remdesivir recovered in 11 days, compared with 15 days for patients taking placebo, a 31% improvement that was statistically significant, NIAID said in a news release.

In the remdesivir group, 8% of patients died, compared with 11.6% of patients in the placebo arm. The survival difference wasn’t statistically significant, however.
The key takeaway is
Gilead is in active discussions with the Food and Drug Administration about securing emergency authorization for remdesivir,
When it receives FDA clearance, remdesivir will be the first COVID-19 medication approved for use in hospitals.

The remdesivir results were good but did not guarantee that a patient would recover. So why the enthusiasm?

Market participants may think that other favorable developments were coming soon. Also, remdesivir tells the public that an effective treatment is available and reduces the risk of venturing out of homes. Restoring confidence about health and safety is perhaps the most significant obstacle to recovery.

A Foster City company didn't save the world, but it did signal that we've turned the corner.
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. ---Winston Churchill

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Can't Stop Them, But You Can Laugh at Them

(Image from KNTV, Las Vegas)
Like everyone who's reading this, I've seen a lot of Internet scams over the years. This month I got my first "sextortion" email. The would-be blackmailer does have the password to a real account.

His threat is reprinted below verbatim, except for the substitution of "Password". I totally ignored the email and didn't suffer any of the promised consequences for a very good reason, explained below.
Subject: "Password"

𝙸 𝚍𝚘 πš”πš—πš˜πš , "Password", πš’πšœ πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš™πšŠπšœπšœ πš πš˜πš›πš.

𝙸 πš—πšŽπšŽπš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšŒπš˜πš–πš™πš•πšŽπšπšŽ πšŠπšπšπšŽπš—πšπš’πš˜πš— πšπš˜πš› πšπš‘πšŽ πšŒπš˜πš–πš’πš—πš 𝟸𝟺 πš‘πš˜πšžπš›πšœ, πš˜πš› 𝙸 πš–πšŠπš’ πš–πšŠπš”πšŽ πšœπšžπš›πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšπš‘πšŠπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš•πš’πšŸπšŽ 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 πšŽπš–πš‹πšŠπš›πš›πšŠπšœπšœπš–πšŽπš—πš πšπš˜πš› πšπš‘πšŽ πš›πšŽπšœπš 𝚘𝚏 πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšŽπš‘πš’πšœπšπšŽπš—πšŒπšŽ.

π™·πšŽπš•πš•πš˜ πšπš‘πšŽπš›πšŽ, 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘 πš—πš˜πš πš”πš—πš˜πš  πš–πšŽ πš™πšŽπš›πšœπš˜πš—πšŠπš•πš•πš’. 𝚈𝚎𝚝 𝙸 πš”πš—πš˜πš  πšŽπšŸπšŽπš›πš’ πšπš‘πš’πš—πš πšŠπš‹πš˜πšžπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞. πšˆπš˜πšžπš› πšπšŠπšŒπšŽπš‹πš˜πš˜πš” πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπš πš•πš’πšœπš, πš–πš˜πš‹πš’πš•πšŽ πš™πš‘πš˜πš—πšŽ πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπšπšœ πšŠπš•πš˜πš—πš πš πš’πšπš‘ πšŠπš•πš• πšπš‘πšŽ πšŸπš’πš›πšπšžπšŠπš• πšŠπšŒπšπš’πšŸπš’πšπš’ πš’πš— πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšŒπš˜πš–πš™πšžπšπšŽπš› πšπš›πš˜πš– πš™πšŠπšœπš 𝟷𝟹𝟺 𝚍𝚊𝚒𝚜.

π™Έπš—πšŒπš•πšžπšπš’πš—πš, πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšœπšŽπš•πš πš™πš•πšŽπšŠπšœπšžπš›πšŽ πšŸπš’πšπšŽπš˜ πšŒπš•πš’πš™πšœ, πš πš‘πš’πšŒπš‘ πš‹πš›πš’πš—πšπšœ πš–πšŽ 𝚝𝚘 πšπš‘πšŽ πš–πšŠπš’πš— πš›πšŽπšŠπšœπš˜πš— πš πš‘πš’ 𝙸 'πš– πšŒπš›πšŠπšπšπš’πš—πš πšπš‘πš’πšœ πš™πšŠπš›πšπš’πšŒπšžπš•πšŠπš› πš–πšŠπš’πš• 𝚝𝚘 𝚒𝚘𝚞.

πš†πšŽπš•πš• πšπš‘πšŽ πš•πšŠπšœπš πšπš’πš–πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš πšŽπš—πš 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚎𝚎 πšπš‘πšŽ πš™πš˜πš›πš— πš πšŽπš‹πšœπš’πšπšŽπšœ, πš–πš’ πšœπš™πš’πš πšŠπš›πšŽ 𝚠𝚊𝚜 πšπš›πš’πšπšπšŽπš›πšŽπš πš’πš—πšœπš’πšπšŽ πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšŒπš˜πš–πš™πšžπšπšŽπš› πšœπš’πšœπšπšŽπš– πš πš‘πš’πšŒπš‘ πšŽπš—πšπšŽπš πšžπš™ πšœπš‘πš˜πš˜πšπš’πš—πš 𝚊 πš‹πšŽπšŠπšžπšπš’πšπšžπš• πšŸπš’πšπšŽπš˜ 𝚏𝚘𝚘𝚝𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚘𝚏 πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšœπšŽπš•πš πš™πš•πšŽπšŠπšœπšžπš›πšŽ 𝚊𝚌𝚝 πšœπš’πš–πš™πš•πš’ πš‹πš’ πšπš›πš’πšπšπšŽπš›πš’πš—πš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš πšŽπš‹ πšŒπšŠπš–. (𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚐𝚘𝚝 𝚊 πšœπšŽπš›πš’πš˜πšžπšœπš•πš’ 𝚘𝚍𝚍 πš™πš›πšŽπšπšŽπš›πšŽπš—πšŒπšŽ πš‹πš’ πšπš‘πšŽ 𝚠𝚊𝚒 πš•πš–πšπšŠπš˜)

𝙸 πš‘πšŠπšŸπšŽ 𝚐𝚘𝚝 πšπš‘πšŽ πšŽπš—πšπš’πš›πšŽ πš›πšŽπšŒπš˜πš›πšπš’πš—πš. π™Έπš πš™πšŽπš›πš‘πšŠπš™πšœ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšπš‘πš’πš—πš” 𝙸 'πš– πš™πš•πšŠπš’πš’πš—πš πšŠπš›πš˜πšžπš—πš, πšœπš’πš–πš™πš•πš’ πš›πšŽπš™πš•πš’ πš™πš›πš˜πš˜πš πšŠπš—πš 𝙸 πš πš’πš•πš• πš‹πšŽ πšπš˜πš›πš πšŠπš›πšπš’πš—πš πšπš‘πšŽ πš›πšŽπšŒπš˜πš›πšπš’πš—πš πš›πšŠπš—πšπš˜πš–πš•πš’ 𝚝𝚘 𝟺 πš™πšŽπš˜πš™πš•πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞'πš›πšŽ πšπš›πš’πšŽπš—πšπšœ πš πš’πšπš‘.

π™Έπš πšŒπš˜πšžπš•πš πšŽπš—πš πšžπš™ πš‹πšŽπš’πš—πš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšπš›πš’πšŽπš—πšπšœ, 𝚌𝚘 πš πš˜πš›πš”πšŽπš›πšœ, πš‹πš˜πšœπšœ, πš–πš˜πšπš‘πšŽπš› πšŠπš—πš πšπšŠπšπš‘πšŽπš› (𝙸 πšπš˜πš—'𝚝 πš”πš—πš˜πš ! π™Όπš’ πšœπš’πšœπšπšŽπš– πš πš’πš•πš• πš›πšŠπš—πšπš˜πš–πš•πš’ πšŒπš‘πš˜πš˜πšœπšŽ πšπš‘πšŽ πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπšπšœ).

πš†πš’πš•πš• 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš‹πšŽ πšŠπš‹πš•πšŽ 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚊𝚣𝚎 πš’πš—πšπš˜ πšŠπš—πš’πš˜πš—πšŽ'𝚜 𝚎𝚒𝚎𝚜 πšŠπšπšŠπš’πš— πšŠπšπšπšŽπš› πš’πš? 𝙸 πšπš˜πšžπš‹πš πš’πš...

π™±πšžπš, πš’πš πšπš˜πšŽπšœπš—'𝚝 πš‘πšŠπšŸπšŽ 𝚝𝚘 πš‹πšŽ πšπš‘πšŠπš πš›πš˜πšžπšπšŽ.

𝙸 πš πšŠπš—πš 𝚝𝚘 πš–πšŠπš”πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚊 πš˜πš—πšŽ πšπš’πš–πšŽ, πš—πš˜πš— πš—πšŽπšπš˜πšπš’πšŠπš‹πš•πšŽ πš˜πšπšπšŽπš›.

π™±πšžπš’ $ 𝟸𝟢𝟢𝟢 πš’πš— πš‹πš’πšπšŒπš˜πš’πš— πšŠπš—πš πšœπšŽπš—πš πšπš‘πšŽπš– πš˜πš— πšπš‘πšŽ πšπš˜πš πš— πš‹πšŽπš•πš˜πš  πšŠπšπšπš›πšŽπšœπšœ:

16SPXbLopobZqJR5ju*VynZHmd3bodgqr35 [π™²π™°πš‚π™΄-πšœπšŽπš—πšœπš’πšπš’πšŸπšŽ πšŒπš˜πš™πš’ πšŠπš—πš πš™πšŠπšœπšπšŽ πš’πš, πšŠπš—πš πš›πšŽπš–πš˜πšŸπšŽ * πšπš›πš˜πš– πš’πš]

(π™Έπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘 πš—πš˜πš πš”πš—πš˜πš  πš‘πš˜πš , πšπš˜πš˜πšπš•πšŽ πš‘πš˜πš  𝚝𝚘 πšŠπšŒπššπšžπš’πš›πšŽ πš‹πš’πšπšŒπš˜πš’πš—. π™³πš˜ πš—πš˜πš 𝚠𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚎 πš–πš’ πšŸπšŠπš•πšžπšŠπš‹πš•πšŽ πšπš’πš–πšŽ)

π™Έπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšœπšŽπš—πš πšπš‘πš’πšœ πš™πšŠπš›πšπš’πšŒπšžπš•πšŠπš› 'πšπš˜πš—πšŠπšπš’πš˜πš—' (πš•πšŽπš 𝚞𝚜 πšŒπšŠπš•πš• πš’πš πšπš‘πšŠπš?). π™°πšπšπšŽπš› πšπš‘πšŠπš, 𝙸 πš πš’πš•πš• πšπš’πšœπšŠπš™πš™πšŽπšŠπš› πšŠπš—πš πš—πšŽπšŸπšŽπš› πšŽπšŸπšŽπš› πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšŠπšπšŠπš’πš—. 𝙸 πš πš’πš•πš• πšŽπš•πš’πš–πš’πš—πšŠπšπšŽ πšŽπšŸπšŽπš›πš’πšπš‘πš’πš—πš 𝙸 πš‘πšŠπšŸπšŽ πšŒπš˜πš—πšŒπšŽπš›πš—πš’πš—πš 𝚒𝚘𝚞. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 πš–πšŠπš’ πšŸπšŽπš›πš’ πš πšŽπš•πš• πšŒπš˜πš—πšπš’πš—πšžπšŽ πš•πš’πšŸπš’πš—πš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš›πšŽπšπšžπš•πšŠπš› 𝚍𝚊𝚒 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚊𝚒 πš•πš’πšπšŽπšœπšπš’πš•πšŽ πš πš’πšπš‘ πšŠπš‹πšœπš˜πš•πšžπšπšŽπš•πš’ πš—πš˜ πšŒπš˜πš—πšŒπšŽπš›πš—πšœ.

𝚈𝚘𝚞'𝚟𝚎 𝟷 𝚍𝚊𝚒 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚘 𝚜𝚘. πšˆπš˜πšžπš› πšπš’πš–πšŽ πš πš’πš•πš• πšœπšπšŠπš›πš 𝚊𝚜 πšœπš˜πš˜πš— 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš›πšŽπšŠπš πšπš‘πš›πš˜πšžπšπš‘ πšπš‘πš’πšœ 𝚎 πš–πšŠπš’πš•. 𝙸 πš‘πšŠπšŸπšŽ 𝚐𝚘𝚝 πšŠπš— πšœπš™πšŽπšŒπš’πšŠπš• 𝚌𝚘𝚍𝚎 πšπš‘πšŠπš πš πš’πš•πš• πš’πš—πšπš˜πš›πš– πš–πšŽ 𝚊𝚜 πšœπš˜πš˜πš— 𝚊𝚜 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚎𝚎 πšπš‘πš’πšœ πš–πšŠπš’πš• 𝚜𝚘 πšπš˜πš—'𝚝 πšŠπšπšπšŽπš–πš™πš 𝚝𝚘 𝚊𝚌𝚝 πšœπš–πšŠπš›πš.
The reason the e-mail was safe to trash: it was sent to my father, who died 10 months ago.

"I know everything about you"--no, you don't, and you missed a fact that's pretty basic.

Monday, April 27, 2020

MP v 2.0

A small group of scientists and billionaires have formed a "Manhattan Project" to defeat the coronavirus.
They call themselves Scientists to Stop Covid-19, and they include chemical biologists, an immunobiologist, a neurobiologist, a chronobiologist, an oncologist, a gastroenterologist, an epidemiologist and a nuclear scientist. Of the scientists at the center of the project, biologist Michael Rosbash, a 2017 Nobel Prize winner, said, “There’s no question that I’m the least qualified.”
Tom Cahill (WSJ photo)
Tom Cahill, 33-year-old venture capitalist with a bioscience PhD from Duke, hosted a conference call on the status of COVID-19 research in early March. The call was quickly oversubscribed and birthed the aforementioned group to address the multifaceted problems posed by the virus.
Much of the early work involved divvying up hundreds of scientific papers on the crisis from around the world. They separated promising ideas from dubious ones. Each member blazed through as many as 20 papers a day, around 10 times the pace they would in their day jobs.
The group's objectives are ambitious:
We envision a first wave of therapies using existing drugs that will establish a beachhead in the fight against the virus (testing in April-May 2020, use immediately afterwards). A second wave of potent new antibody drugs developed specifically to neutralize COVID-19 offer a promising combination of speed, safety, and likelihood of being effective (testing in June-August 2020, use afterwards). A third wave of vaccines for long-term victory over the virus will offer seasonal or multi-year immunity to COVID-19 (testing in March 2020-March 2021, use afterwards). In parallel, reopening of businesses and schools to restore our society and economy (implementation in May-June 2020, lasting until the threat has passed) will use science-driven symptom reporting, virus testing, and personal protective gear to minimize future COVID-19 outbreaks and additional loss of life.
Those involved with the creation of the atomic bomb--Oppenheimer, Seaborg, Feynmann, Fermi--became some of the most famous names in 20th Century science.

If the 21st century version of the Manhattan Project achieves its objectives, then its participants, who by the way have forsworn monetary enrichment or politics, will rightly deserve the accolades that will come their way.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Plague Village

Eyam plague cottage ( image)
Geraldine Brooks researched the English village of Eyam when she wrote her historical novel. Eyam (pronounced "eem", like seem without the s) was devastated by the plague 3½ centuries ago: [bold added]
In the parish church of St. Lawrence, a small, stark display told the story of the cottagers’ ordeal in 1665, when bubonic plague struck the village.

The disease, thought to have been carried from London in a bolt of infected cloth ordered by an itinerant tailor, began to take hold. Convinced by their pastor, the villagers took the unique decision to voluntarily quarantine themselves rather than flee, which would have spread the contagion. For a year, they lived cut off from the world, their supplies left at a boundary stone at the village edge. Illness racked the population, killing an estimated two-thirds of the 300 souls who resided there but sparing the surrounding communities.
There are few written records from that period because "In 1665, most villagers were illiterate miners or shepherds who could leave no account of their year in isolation."

Coincidentally the existence of microbes was discovered in 1665, but it wasn't until two centuries later that microorganisms were identified as the cause of disease, food spoilage, and other afflictions of humanity.

The villagers of Eyam had a limited understanding of plague, but they did know physical distancing would slow its spread. They could flee and save their own lives, or isolate themselves to save others. They chose the latter.

We have vastly greater medical knowledge and resources than the long-ago people of Eyam, who like today's frontline workers, didn't let fear rule their decisions.

They were better people than we are.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Please Don’t Encourage Death from Stupidity

The sad state of American education---Clorox should
replace tiny "if swallowed" instruction with
Warning! Poison! Do Not Drink! in front and back.
President Trump is used to tweeting and thinking out loud. While it's both refreshing and alarming to have such unfiltered access to a President's brain, extended unscripted discussions carry risks: [bold added]
During his coronavirus briefing Thursday night, Mr. Trump pondered whether treatments involving light or disinfectants should be studied.

“So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous—whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light—and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it,” he said. “And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body.”

Mr. Trump added: “And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, watched quietly with an impassive expression on her face as the president spoke. At one point, Mr. Trump asked her if she had heard that heat and light could work as a treatment for the virus. She replied: “Not as a treatment, no.”
The result is what one might expect of an opposition media--a continuous loop of the President appearing to say that the coronavirus could be treated by "injecting" disinfectants. To this humble blogger the President was voicing thoughts that flitted from the surface-cleaning capability of Clorox or Lysol to the desire for a miraculous substance that could similarly clean the lungs. His follow-up question to Dr. Birx indicated that the President was thinking about high temperature and ultraviolet treatments and not swallowing bleach.

If the media keeps repeating the misinterpretation that President Trump recommended disinfectants for internal use, then they're being deliberately obtuse. Worse, if Trump supporters are as ignorant and blindly obedient as the media thinks they are, some of them will act on the repeated false reports and drink poison.

Let's hope that no one is that stupid.

Friday, April 24, 2020

One is the Important Number

The general public is getting an education on what constitutes scientific evidence.

Rumors have been swirling for months on possible treatments for the coronavirus, but they're all based on "anecdotal evidence." One person's recovery doesn't tell us anything, because she may have gotten better without a particular drug, and not having side effects doesn't mean that another person won't have any. We have to wait for the clinical trials that cover thousands of cases. Clinical trials seem to take an eternity in a world of same-day shipping.

It takes thousands to prove something is true but only one to prove that it is not. Santa Clara resident Patricia Dowd, 57, died on February 6th while infected with the coronavirus. Her death occurred three weeks before the previous first-known U.S. death in Seattle on February 28th:
(Facebook via Daily Mail)
After Patricia Dowd died at home suddenly on Feb. 6 at the age of 57, her family was in shock. The woman was in seemingly good health, so the coroner’s explanation was all they had: A massive heart attack likely killed her before she hit the floor.

This week came another round of jarring news: Dowd was infected with the coronavirus at the time of her death. She is the first person in the U.S. known to have died from COVID-19.

Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said this week that neither Dowd — nor the two other people whose cases were classified as early coronavirus deaths — had traveled outside of the country shortly before their deaths.
Ms. Dowd acquired the virus from "community spread", that is, from a person not a family member or a close friend, which means the virus arrived in the U.S. long before the China travel ban on January 31st.
The infection rate in Santa Clara County could be 50 to 85 times higher than the number of reported cases, according to estimates by Stanford University scientists who administered antibody tests to 3,330 Santa Clara County residents.
Another nettlesome fact about the virus--it's mutating:
The coronavirus mutates about twice every month, so the more mutations there are, the further removed it is from the original strain and the more it has circulated among humans.
By now most of us who keep up with COVID-19 developments know that there are distinctive strains on the West and East Coasts, which are traceable to China and Europe, respectively. The ultimate origin is still thought to be Wuhan, but no one knows for sure.

The multiple mutations cause us to have a lot of sympathy for the scientists and companies who have to develop tests for all of them without signaling a false positive from another coronavirus like the cold. And of course, we can't help but feel sympathy for the family of Patricia Dowd, who was a smart and kind lady who died far too young.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

It Would Have Been Glorious

And now, for something enjoyable...and a little poignant.

Singin' in the Rain is my favorite musical. If I come across the movie while channel surfing (something that old folks do on "cable TV"), I'll stop to watch though I've seen it dozens of times. Singin' in the Rain's song-and-dance routines are the most well-known in movies, with the choreography as memorable as the music.

It requires courage to stage a production of Singin'in the Rain, given the fame of the original and the difficulty in finding leads with the requisite talent. Nevertheless, it was all coming together for Punahou High, my alma mater, until COVID-19 cancelled the opening this month. Fortunately, the school pieced together recordings of some of the rehearsals (see below, music begins at 6:54).

It would have been glorious.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Time to Hit the Road

$161,000-$268,000: too expensive for this newbie.
Adding to the list of things I thought I would never do, I've started following the Recreational Vehicle (RV) market.

When summer travel partially opens up, there are two near-certainties: gas will be cheaper than it has been in generations, and COVID-19 standards of cleanliness in hotels, airplanes, and car services aren't guaranteed.

RV's provide a solution--see America without having to worry about bedbugs or worse.

PS: RV culture spans generations. From 2018:
Retiring baby boomers remain a sweet spot for RV brands...But marketers are reporting new interest from younger buyers, including millennials and Gen Xers who are opting for RV vacations over hotel and airline travel. In 2016, the average age of an RV owner was 45, compared with 48 the year before...Even young families are embracing the RV lifestyle, partly because it's a lot easier to work remotely than it used to be.
PPS: I picked up 300 shares of Winnebago (WGO), about $11,000, in the IRA. It won't make me rich if the RV market booms or devastate the portfolio if the guess is wrong, but it's more interesting and fun to back hunches with real $$.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

It's All in My Mind

Trinity College Professor Shane O'Mara says that walking has benefits in addition to those associated with physical exercise, it helps the brain:
2011: 4 miles to the top of the ridge in Rancho
San Antonio Park, then 4 miles back
In our evolutionary history, walking upright set our hands free, allowing us to carry food and tools and children and also to point and gesture. Because we could point to predators and prey in the distance, we could look in the same direction, paying shared attention to what someone is pointing at—a capacity that demands an elaborate brain system.

Walking is also how we find our way around the world. It is how we created our own internal GPS maps before there was GPS. This gives the lie to how we might think we navigate—that is, by sight...After all, we can find our way around in a suddenly darkened room. Close your eyes and point to where the door is: That’s your cognitive map at work. Moving is the thing. It silently updates your position in your GPS without your even realizing it.

Beach and lagoon, Foster City
Movement through the world changes the dynamics of the brain itself. Recent experiments show that walking increases the strength of the signals in parts of the brain concerned with seeing and other senses, such as touch...

Experiments by the psychologists Marily Opezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford University have shown that walking boosts creativity. They asked people to quickly come up with alternative uses for common objects, such as a pen. They found that people whom they got to walk before coming up with alternative uses came up with almost twice as many novel ideas as those who remained seated.
I've been going on regular long walks for nine years. The good professor says that walking enhances my social intelligence, internal GPS, sensory signal strength, and creativity.

Yes, I can feel the brainpower growing. It's unfortunate that my family and friends haven't noticed...

Monday, April 20, 2020

Take My Oil, Please

Oil storage tank (it's a model) for sale on Amazon.
Another effect of coronavirus economics that even experts have a tough time explaining:

CNBC: An oil futures contract expiring Tuesday went negative in bizarre move showing a demand collapse
West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery fell more than 100% to settle at negative $37.63 per barrel, meaning producers would pay traders to take the oil off their hands.
Your humble blogger has never traded commodities and remembers vaguely from long-ago finance classes that future oil prices are dependent on today's ("spot") price, interest rates, and storage costs.

But the biggest factor can be buyers and sellers' estimate of future supply and demand . A producer can sell oil today, for example, at around $20 per barrel but might be willing to commit to deliver oil at a $15 price in July if the producer thinks demand will be soft.

Oil markets have been pessimistic before, but the futures price has never been negative. The closing price in the headline means that the seller will pay a "buyer" $37.63 to take a barrel of oil on May 1st. I was tempted to place an order to take delivery of oil and get paid for doing so, but I don't have a place to put 1,000 barrels, the minimum size of a futures contract.

The anomalous situation will undoubtedly right itself tomorrow, but there have been too many glitches in the Matrix recently:

  • Governments voluntarily killed their economies for a month or longer, akin to doctors stopping the patient's heart to perform an operation.
  • A roaring economy and stock market have collapsed into a deep recession and bear market, respectively, in a matter of weeks.
  • After a primary season with more than two dozen contenders, the Democrats have picked the worst candidate possible. Anybody in the Boston phonebook will perform better in a debate with Donald Trump.
  • Celebrities voluntarily broadcast their images without make-up, and many just look like ordinary people.
  • Sunday, April 19, 2020

    Just a More Highly Regulated Walk with Thee

    San Mateo County orders us (that's not too strong a verb because the title is "Order of the Health Officer") to wear face coverings beginning April 17th. Section 3: [bold added]
    3. All members of the public, except as specifically exempted below, must wear a Face Covering outside their home or other place they reside in the following situations:
    (I've omitted paragraphs of descriptions, definitions, and cross-references to health codes. Basically wear a mask outside or when working in an office, going to the DMV, shopping, seeing a doctor, or when waiting for mass transportation or an Uber.)

    It all boils down to common sense. Wear a mask indoors if it's not your house, or in an area where people are likely to touch a surface that you have touched.

    The weeds can be chest-high for us shorter people.
    Section 7 lists some exceptions:
    Wearing a Face Covering is recommended but not required while engaged in outdoor recreation such as walking, hiking, bicycling, or running...
    It does require some imagination to think of an outdoor activity (hang gliding?) which is not walking, hiking, bicycling or running and therefore requires a Face Covering (as defined).

    Before the new order I had been walking with masks anyway.

    They serve a dual purpose; protection from COVID-19 and protection against allergies. Pollen concentration is high in the spring, and the weeds are flourishing.

    In its more restrained past, government might have issued an advisory in understandable language. Now it's against the law if one doesn't wear a Face Covering (as defined) at an Essential Business or a facility engaging in Minimum Basic Operations or Essential Infrastructure Work or Healthcare Operations.

    Go easy on us hapless citizens, Officer. We'll pay the fine.

    Saturday, April 18, 2020

    In Our Bunkers

    Zoom conference screen (J Post image)
    Videoconferencing has been used in business since the 1990's, but widespread consumer adaptation had been waiting for a catalyst. In March, 2020 it arrived with a vengeance.

    Home WiFi + easy-to-use software + multiple devices + low cost/free + coronavirus = the Zoom explosion.

    The WSJ asks if consumer videoconferencing will permanently alter our methods of interacting.
    You’d be hard-pressed to name another technology that’s been so quickly and blindly adopted as Zoom. Television took years. Social media grew in fits and starts (some of you will remember Friendster). But in the past few weeks, I’ve been invited to Zoom work meetings, happy hours, poker games and Easter brunches. I have weekly Saturday-morning coffees with my buddy Joe who’s isolating a few blocks from me in Brooklyn. Friends have attended Zoom weddings and seders, court proceedings and dance parties. “SNL” even recorded its latest episode on the now-ubiquitous platform, with host Tom Hanks performing the monologue from his (surprisingly unglamorous) kitchen.

    This pandemic too shall pass, but the professionally prescient are already debating what parts of this novel lifestyle will continue when it does. “We’re developing new habits and new comfort and new solace in these behaviors,” said Matt Klein, director of strategy for Sparks & Honey, a consultancy that studies trends. “But when we’re increasing the repetition of these things, over time, they’re going to become more normalized.”
    Those of us who pressed the flesh for decades will go back to in-person meetings with eagerness. But the post-COVID19 generation probably won't. An historical example is e-mail, which didn't eliminate letter-writing for those who grew up writing letters. Four decades later, the texting-with-emojis cohort can barely compose an email, much less a real printed letter.

    I have to put in an admiring word about Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), whose science fiction I read avidly in my youth. Sentient robots with vast powers are no longer thought to be impossible, and his three laws of robotics (1942) now are the starting point for discussion of intelligent-machine ethics. What Isaac Asimov wrestled with nearly 80 years ago is relevant today.

    Another of the writer's creations, albeit minor, was the planet of Solaria (The Naked Sun - 1957), which was one of many Earth colonies that had lost touch with the home world in the Asimovian future history of the galaxy. Solaria is relevant today because it was a world of extreme social distancing. From a 2011 research paper: [bold added]
    Solaria was a planet inhabited by Spacer descendants. The 50th and last Spacer world settled, it had perhaps the most eccentric culture of all of them. Originally, there were about 20,000 people living alone in vast estates. Solarians’ lives were marked by technology: citizens never had to meet, save for sexual contact for reproductive purposes. All other contact was accomplished by sophisticated holographic viewing systems, with most Solarians exhibiting a strong phobia towards actual contact, or even being in the same room as another human. All work was done by robots: there were indeed thousands of robots for every Solarian. As centuries went by, Solaria became even more rigidly and obsessively isolationist...

    Solaria is a fictional planet in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Robot series. The author draws on this metaphor to warn against the risks of dehumanization that may be brought about by an excessive and indiscriminate technical progress. In the 1950s, Asimov’s novel well embodied the common fear according to which technology would have progressively destroyed social interaction. Today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, our lives are marked by technology almost as those of Solarians. The widespread diffusion of the broadband, the internet revolution, and the true explosion of online networks like Facebook, Flickr and Twitter is worrying social scientists, who fear the risk of growing relational poverty.
    Isaac Asimov had it right. In the name of health and safety authorities are justifying all sorts of actions that would have seemed extreme a few months ago. Let's hope that lifting the "temporary" rules will be as quick and easy as imposing them.

    But it's not all Zoom and gloom. We can enjoy the creative ways in which Zoom is being used to stimulate and entertain us in our bunkers.

    Friday, April 17, 2020

    The Same Effect

    (Chronicle graph)
    One month ago the order was given: [bold added]
    In a Monday afternoon press conference, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that as of midnight on March 17, residents of San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties have been legally ordered to remain at home and shelter in place in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
    We've been inundated with information about the coronavirus, but one month later we still don't know who has it, who had it, where it came from exactly, and the best way to treat it.

    We do know (graph) that the rate of new infections appears to be declining in the Bay Area. We also know that spikes in new cases occur where people have little choice but to live in dense housing, i.e., retirement communities, homeless shelters, jails, and residential hotels. While these institutions are not exclusive to cities, cities have the majority of cases.

    Predictions about long-term societal effects are legion. They're also all over the map, e.g., more or less receptivity toward climate change, more or less participation in church, more or less desire for employer-provided health care, etc.

    Post-war Levittown, PA (photographer: John Reps)
    Here is a pretty safe prediction about attitudinal change and consequential action: the urban model is passΓ©. Mass transit is dangerous. The risks of city living are too high for children. The flight to the suburbs and rural areas will accelerate because living there is not only safer but cheaper.

    The suburbs boomed after World War II changed the country. COVID-19 is likely to have the same effect.

    Thursday, April 16, 2020

    Cramer: Giving it to us Straight

    CNBC analysts often present negative opinions, but I especially like Jim Cramer, who doesn't hesitate to give us his personal take as an investor and as a consumer.

    Jim Cramer (middle): "No! I call Amazon."
    This morning, Cramer on Walgreens (negative):
    I don’t want to go to Walgreens because I don’t like Walgreens. Why do I have to go to Walgreens? Everything comes to my house now.

    I go to Walgreens, I look at all the things that I don’t want. I’m in there for the Edge shaving cream. I gotta unlock something in order to get the blades and call the person over. No! I call Amazon.

    Have you ever been to a drugstore? You know that everything’s under plastic now. You gotta say, “Hey!” There’s nobody there. “Help me, help me, I want to buy blades for $48 with plastic that’s going to end up in the Pacific.” No, thank you.
    Cramer on Costco (positive):
    So Costco increased its dividend last night 7% . Really big increase. You go to Costco, they now have physical separation. They have a line, there’s a race track you have to go. Costco’s got the lowest prices. But I feel great about that. I feel great because in the absence of the blood testing at least I know that Costco has got everything under control for me. It’s not fearful.

    When I go into a little store I worry that there's too many people close to me. Now I'm sure there's people out west who say, “Cramer why don’t you wear a rubber suit?”

    Animal Spirits

    Costco has eliminated mailings of its monthly specials.

    Rather than log in with the ID and password on the browser each time, I downloaded the iPhone app, which is perpetually connected.

    Costco is adapting to the coronavirus world by trying to keep shoppers spaced in its warehouses, providing more home delivery options, and beefing up the online store.

    The local outlet may be out of TP, but Costco does have the $60,000 diamond ring and $45,000 earrings.

    A few more stimulus checks, and I just might be able to swing it.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2020

    Winning by Losing

    QB's Mahomes and Garoppolo after the game (Chron photo)
    When the 49ers lost the Super Bowl to the Chiefs on February 2nd, Bay Area fans were, of course, disappointed.

    But not too badly.
  • The 49ers had far outperformed expectations for the season.
  • It was a terrific game that wasn't decided until the final minutes.
  • The 49ers have a good, young team that should make them contenders for years.

    2017 Warriors parade, Oakland (WSJ photo)
    Now comes the report that many lives were possibly saved because the 49ers did not have a victory parade:
    It’s impossible to know precisely how many people would have packed the streets to fete quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, coach Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the 49ers. But it’s possible to offer a rough estimate: a lot of people.

    When the Golden State Warriors won their three recent championships, the parades in Oakland attracted reported crowds of between 500,000 to 1.5 million fans.
    But wasn't San Francisco's gain Kansas City's loss? Not this time.
    ...the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl turned out to be a public health savior. Kansas City happened to be one of the last NFL cities to report its first case of the virus, and the hundreds of thousands of long-suffering fans who celebrated on Feb. 5 were about six weeks behind San Francisco. Not until March 18 did Kansas City report its first case. Bay Area residents had been ordered to shelter-in-place by then.
    San Francisco fans lamented that Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes was perhaps the only player in the league who could have overcome a 10-point lead against the 49er defense in the fourth quarter.

    Thank God he was there, as both cities won.
  • Tuesday, April 14, 2020

    Too High a Price

    Wearing a personal meter all day is a bit more invasive than a 1970's set-top box
    When broadcast television was the dominant medium, I thought that it would be a personal coup to be an A.C. Neilsen member. Not only would the company pay a stipend to allow it to track my T.V. viewing, I would be an influencer long before that became a word. I could put Star Trek back on the air by watching reruns 24/7!

    When consumers began viewing programs whenever they wanted over a multitude of devices, Nielsen found it difficult to gather reliable, comprehensive ratings data. Their solution to replace the old set-top box:
    "All you have to do is wear your meter as you go about your day."
    It may be inevitable that privacy is dead, but we don't have to speed its demise. Sorry, Nielsen, I'm not going to be a member.

    Later in life I've found that I don't want many of the things that I wanted in my youth.

    Besides, I have to catch up on the more than half-dozen Star Trek series that have been produced in the past 30 years.

    Monday, April 13, 2020

    Past, Present, and Future Tents

    Last week's world-has-changed table has an unexpected addition (in red):

    World 1.0World 2.0
    Police: uncover your face Police: cover your face
    Take mass transit Cancel mass transit
    Reusable Single-use
    Urban Suburban
    Specialist Jack-of-all-trades
    Supermodels Computer models
    Senators Governors
    Interdependency Self sufficiency
    Medical insurance Medical supply chain
    Moisturizer Sanitizer
    Homeless tents bad Homeless tents good

    The Chronicle explains:[bold added]
    18th Ave., SF (Chron photo)
    From the Tenderloin to the Castro to the Richmond, the shelter-in-place order has caused an explosion of homeless tents popping up on sidewalks all across San Francisco — and it comes with the blessing of the city.

    With the city’s already crowded shelters unable to provide the required social distancing, city officials have decided tents are the next best thing. So for now the tents that the city worked so hard to remove in recent years are back and pretty much untouchable.

    “I know of about 600 tents that we have helped give out. But there are probably a lot more that have been given out by community members, small businesses and shelters that have no room,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness.

    “Tents are actually part of the Centers for Disease Control recommendations and the recommendations of the Trump administration,” Friedenbach said.

    The effect, however, has been like rolling back the clock.

    “When we started out working on addressing tent encampments in August 2016, we estimated there were about 1,200 tents citywide,” Jeff Kositsky the city’s Healthy Streets Operations Center manager. “We got it down to under 400. Now, I estimate it is over 750 and rising quickly.”
    The City seems to be operating under the same logic that gives free needles to drug addicts. The policy may improve the population's health, but it also subsidizes the bad behavior and does nothing to reduce it.

    Afterthought: Christians who wanted to worship together on Easter Sunday should have set up tents on church lawns, since civil authorities apparently bless this method of maintaining social distancing.

    Sunday, April 12, 2020

    Easter, 2020

    8 a.m. Easter morning, Foster City, California
    An hour after dawn it was a good time to go for a walk.

    There were few cars on the road and a couple of people walking their dogs.

    I cross the street without pressing the button for the "Walk" signal. The signal stops traffic for 20 seconds, which is irritating to drivers when the pedestrians usually only need 10. I jogged across.

    I used to subscribe to five (5) sports podcasts but gave them up a month ago because they had nothing new to say. When sports resume, I won't re-subscribe to any of them, a casualty of the great re-set.

    Jordan Peterson's biblical series podcasts seemed appropriate for Easter Sunday, so I listened to his first, Introduction to the Idea of God. (The YouTube version is here.) I like to listen to Jordan Peterson because you never know where he's going, as opposed to partisan blogs which are like a bad movie in that you know the ending five minutes after they start.

    About an hour into his talk Jordan Peterson mentioned a graphic representation of Biblical internal cross-references, which I later looked up and copied below, reserving judgment as to whether it's meaningful.

    I tuned in to my church's streaming service at 10. With no Communion it only lasted 44 minutes.

    By the way, I do understand why some congregations are so insistent about holding in-person services on Easter. It's the most important Feast on the Christian calendar and commemorates the Resurrection, an event more important than Christmas.

    Moreover, a church filled with worshippers singing the traditional Easter hymns is not an experience that can be fully captured on YouTube, any more than a packed concert hall or football stadium.

    On the bright side perhaps next year everyone will not take Easter worship, egg hunts, and parades (do they still have those?) for granted and make a special effort to attend celebrations.

    Saturday, April 11, 2020

    Plus C'est la MΓͺme Chose

    The effects of the coronavirus and sheltering-in-place will reverberate for years. They have revealed humanity at its best and worst, mostly the former, thankfully.

    One relatively minor behavior that hasn't changed is the occurrence of BART turnstile-jumping, despite a 93% decrease in ridership: [bold added]
    2018 fare evader (Chron)
    BART’s two morning sweeps at San Francisco’s Embarcadero Station were pulling an average of 238 fare evaders a day off the morning-commute trains.

    Many of those ejected for not having a ticket were homeless or apparently mentally ill, BART officials said...

    2019: Breaking through after
    double gates installed (Chron)
    BART had 24,909 riders on Monday, far below the 405,000 average daily ridership before the nine-county order went out for all nonessential Bay Area workers to stay at home.

    “You might have thought that a 93% reduction in riders would have meant a reduction in fare evaders as well, but that hasn’t been the case,” BART Director Debora Allen said. She added that the people who jump the gates aren’t just cheats, they are potential health hazards to the other riders and to themselves.
    The current crisis has relegated some "problems" (plastic shopping bags, plastic straws) to unimportance. Others that have been festering (homelessness, open drug use) are endangering health and safety by befouling trains and buses.

    Maybe this will give San Francisco the resolve, once this is over, to make the hard choices necessary to fix homelessness.

    Friday, April 10, 2020

    Backsliding, But for Good Reason

    Old winter favorite
    Last year I made some progress on clearing the clutter. I went through closets and drawers and bagged up clothes that were in good condition. The bags and boxes were waiting for me to muster the initiative to take them to the local charity.

    As in many other areas sheltering-in-place has caused me to re-evaluate priorities.

    Marie Kondo's advice to tidy up is still important, but
  • No one's coming to visit;
  • I don't have to wear clothes to make an impression;
  • Some of my most comfortable garments were in the charity pile.

    And so it was that I retrieved an old winter favorite to replace a damaged jacket.

    It's been unseasonably cold.
  • Thursday, April 09, 2020

    Unprecedented Debt + Encouragement to Borrow More

    (Note: the above 75-year debt chart shows debt as a percentage of U.S. GDP and is from the Wall Street Journal)

    Even before the coronavirus-induced recession, United States consumers, businesses, and state and local governments had borrowed at unprecedented levels.

    The conventional worry is that paying back the debt will be a drag on the recovery: [bold added]
    The debt surge is set to shape how governments and the private sector function long after the virus is tamed. Among other things, it could be a weight on the expansion that follows.

    Many economists believe low interest rates will help the nation manage the soaring debt load. At the same time, they say high levels of private sector debt could lead to a period of thrift, slowing the recovery if businesses and individuals try to rebuild their savings by holding back on investment and spending.
    But these are unconventional times. Paying back the debt is a future concern. The problem is making more loans now to keep businesses alive.

    In normal recessions businesses tap their lines of credit. If they reach their limit, banks will be nervous about lending more. The unavailability of credit flushes weaker players out of the system and primes the economy for recovery.

    However, all sectors of the economy are struggling. Some of the biggest employer names--who were doing fine a few months ago--will collapse without funds to keep them going, The "normal recession" model of weeding out the weaker companies won't work if entire sectors--for example, the airlines--are gone.

    Because prudent lenders won't make loans or purchase debt in this environment the Federal Reserve has become the lender of last resort for the entire economy, not just the banking sector.
    On Thursday, the central bank expanded those efforts and further unveiled a new generation of lending facilities to prevent a liquidity crunch from turning into a solvency crisis for American businesses, states and cities.

    The Fed said it would offer through banks four-year loans in which payments can be deferred for one year to businesses with up to 10,000 employees or revenues of less than $2.5 billion. Loans through this Main Street Lending Program, which will initially fund up to $600 billion in loans, will be subject to restrictions on stock buybacks, dividends and executive compensation. Firms that have received separate forgivable loans for payroll costs from the Small Business Administration will be eligible to seek Main Street loans as well.

    To ease funding strains for cities and states seeing large revenue drops and rising expenses from simultaneous economic and health crises, the Fed said it would purchase up to $500 billion in short-term debt directly from U.S. states, the District of Columbia, U.S. counties with at least two million residents, and U.S. cities with at least one million residents.
    Your humble blogger was taught in Paleozoic-Era economics courses that the Federal Reserve only participated in capital markets by buying and selling Treasury Bills. In succeeding crises the Fed bought long-term Treasuries and bank debt.

    Now the Fed is buying corporate debt--even some risky pieces that pension funds won't touch--and the debt of state and local governments. It has crossed a line and can't go back. ("Why are you letting [State name] go bankrupt?")

    Eventually the tidal wave of government debt and paper money will cause an inflation that will dwarf that of the 1970's. Thankfully, with a life expectancy of perhaps 20 years, I won't have to suffer through much of it.

    Wednesday, April 08, 2020

    A Small Sign That It's Peaked

    San Mateo County, where we live, has 589 cases.
    (Mercury-News map as of 4/7, 5:18pm.
    My 98-year-old friend needed another ride to the hospital for an outpatient procedure to clear a blockage. IMHO, her condition was somewhere between life-threatening and you-should-have-a-doctor-take-a-look, but I'm not a medical professional.

    Her original appointment, scheduled for March 26th, was postponed to April 23rd because the hospital was preparing to receive an influx of COVID-19 patients.

    When she called again yesterday to inform me of another date change, I was expecting a postponement. Instead her appointment was moved forward three days to April 20th.

    It's a small sign that the virus may have peaked on the Peninsula.

    Property Tax Deferral: No Applause

    In 2016 I paid property taxes in person
    in Redwood City. It's not worth the trouble.
    Last week your humble blogger slammed the San Mateo County tax collector for not deferring the April 10th property tax payments. On Monday came the announcement that the payments are deferred to Monday, May 4th.
    Section 2619 says that if April 10 “falls on Saturday, Sunday or a legal holiday,” the due date is the next business day. It also says, “If the board of supervisors, by adoption of an ordinance or resolution, closes the county’s offices for business prior to the time of delinquency on the ‘next business day’ or for that whole day, that day shall be considered a legal holiday for purposes of this section.”

    San Mateo and San Francisco county supervisors adopted resolutions to close their tax collector’s offices so the payment deadlines could be extended until they reopen.
    The deferral is due to the offices being closed, not because of a policy change to help taxpayers. The Monday announcement came after many (ahem) had already sent in their payments.

    So, no applause from these quarters.

    Tuesday, April 07, 2020

    Boring Beauty

    Circle marks where I took the photo
    It's been great re-familiarizing myself with the neighborhood, but after three weeks the novelty has worn off. One can only leave the home in so many directions.

    On days with more energy I venture farther afield into the neighboring cities of Redwood Shores and San Mateo, but that carries the risk of being caught in a rainstorm a couple of miles from home.

    Calling for someone to pick me up seems to be against the new ethos of social distancing and self-reliance. The same goes for driving someplace new for exercise, an unnecessary use of the car.

    Boredom, of course, is a nothingburger complaint to people who are suffering from the coronavirus or those who are ministering to them. Likewise those who are working overtime to perform essential services, or those whose lives are on the brink of financial disaster.

    So I will stifle myself, as Archie used to say to Edith, and enjoy the beauty around us, boring though it may be.