Thursday/ Stay At Home extended

Washington State’s Stay At Home order has been extended to May 4.

About 1/4 of the reported Covid-19 cases in the world are now from the United States (245k out of a million), with fatalities now approaching 6,000 in the USA, and more than 53,000 worldwide. (Information from the dashboard from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University).

‘Yes, this is exactly what I feel like right now’, I thought as I walked by the mural at 10th Ave & Pine today. I was making my way to the pharmacy on Madison St, navigating the desolate street blocks of First Hill.

Wednesday/ here’s April

The little bergenia ‘Bressingham White’ that I have in a pot, has produced its first flowers.

Bergenias have leathery, shiny, rounded leaves that get a bronze tinge in winter time. The little flowers are bell-shaped.

Tuesday/ graupel

I learned a new word today from our local TV weatherman: graupel.

Graupel is precipitation that forms when tiny, super-cooled water droplets glom onto snowflakes. The soft snowy pellets then fall down to earth.

This must be sleet or fine hail (hard pellets), that fell here in my yard today, and not graupel. Graupel’s consistency is that of opaque white snowy pellets.

Monday/ the ‘wabbits’ are under quarantine

I ran out to the grocery store again on Saturday.
Hopefully, the time will come again in the foreseeable future, when I would not have to dodge the other shoppers, nor be in a rush, so as to minimize my time in the ‘dangerous’ public space of the store.

My two Easter bunnies from Lindt still have a day or so to go before they are done with their 72 hour quarantine .. but I will probably wash the foil wrappers with soap anyway, before I tear it open.

Sunday/ trying to peer into the future

‘Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.’—Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher

To help keep my sense of time and seasons intact, I drew up a little timeline of the 9 months that still stretch ahead of Seattle and the world in 2020.
Major sport events in the world have now been cancelled through July (including Wimbledon tennis at the famous ‘All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club’, and the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics).

After that – well, we just don’t know right now.

Sure looks like it’s going to be remote learning for Seattle schools through June, and NO proms, NO high school graduation ceremonies. Confirmed: NO 2020 Opening Day for Seattle Yacht Club. I don’t think there will be a 2020 Seattle Pride Parade (late June), nor 4th of July fireworks gatherings. Seafair Weekend is the end of July .. not yet cancelled. Will kids go back to school on Sep. 2? Don’t know yet. The 2020 NFL season is slated to start Sept. 10, and insiders are said to be ‘skeptical’ of that start date. And by then Thanksgiving and Christmas loom.

Saturday Night Out: Cancelled

The streets were very quiet, late afternoon around Capitol Hill’s so-called Pike & Pine corridor — where all the bars and restaurants are. None of these establishments are open, of course.

Doors are closed; none of the usual crowding outside the Comet Tavern at 922 East Pike, and no cars on the streets.
The Oddfellows Café + Bar on 10th Ave in Capitol Hill, not only closed, but all boarded up, as for a hurricane.  ‘Can’t Wait to See You Again!’ and ‘Stand Six Steps Back And Promise You Love Me’, says the artwork on the boards. The Oddfellows Hall building was completed in 1908.

Friday/ tulips and the Dutch Golden Age

Tulips were coveted in the late 1500s in Europe, for their saturated, intense petal color — that no other cultivated plant had at the time.

At the height of Tulip Mania in the Dutch Golden Age (February of 1637),  tulip bulbs sold for some 10,000 guilders: enough money to buy a mansion on the Amsterdam Grand Canal.
The market for tulip bulbs collapsed soon after that.

There is no Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley north of Seattle this year, but a few can be seen here & there in gardens in my neighborhood. I found this beauty a block down from my house.

Thursday/ tracking the pandemic’s toll

The Financial Times publish these graphs of Covid-19 fatalities every day, here.

This graph shows that deaths in Italy, Spain and the United States are still increasing at a more rapid pace than they had in China, at a similar time (number of days after the 10th death in the country).


This graph shows that the New York State, the Catalonia region and the Madrid metro, could eventually pass Lombardia, Italy, as the worst affected subregion. Washington State and California seems to be doing relatively better than New York State. The higher rate in New York State could be related to the very dense population in NYC, and the heavy use of crowded public transportation there.

Wednesday/ what’s in, and what’s out?

You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.
So you’ve got to respond in what you see happen.
And if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn’t matter what you say.
1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks – you’ve got to go with what the situation on the ground is.
– Dr. Anthony Fauci, member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force

Below is a handy infographic from the Seattle Times, that shows what is allowed, and what is not, under the governor’s Stay-At-Home directive.

For the extra-careful (paranoid*?), there are YouTube videos that advise to wash or sterilize the outsides of packaged groceries, or to carefully dump out food from take-out containers onto clean dinner plates.  Packages from Amazon or elsewhere, should be quarantined for 24 or 48 hours. Wear gloves when going into a store, to minimize direct touch with shopping carts & screens, and so on.

*The late Andy Grove from PC processor manufacturer Intel Corp., wrote a business book titled ‘Only The Paranoid Survive’.

Monday/ another rough one

The stock market was down today by ‘only’ – what? 4% or so, I think. I am not even looking anymore. Congress is still trying to pass a $2 trillion economic package. (That’s a 2 with 18 zeros; about 10% of the entire US Gross Domestic Product). As the New York Times says: Republicans insist that we should fight a plague with trickle-down economics and crony capitalism. Democrats, for some reason, don’t agree, and think we should focus on directly helping Americans in need. 

There was Trump today, again at the podium with the daily press conference, his tedious self. He has done very little to stop or slow the pandemic. He now tries to claim, that it is going to be possible to resume business as usual in another week or so. (Unbelievable. And good luck with that). The press conference today went on so long, and so off the rails, that it was abandoned by the three national TV networks.

The USA is still a patchwork of some States with statewide Stay-At-Home orders, some with orders just in some metro areas (Florida, Texas), and many ‘red’ states (Republican controlled) with no restrictions at all. [Source: New York Times online].
Trump as his press conference today. ‘To watch Trump is to witness the awesome and terrifying power of the American president over life and death – a burden he is unqualified to bear’. [The Guardian online newspaper].

Friday/ sheltering in place

It has been beautiful outside this week, so I went for a few walks around the block a few times — but definitely avoiding people on the sidewalk. Yes, I’m steering clear of you. Don’t care if you are offended .. it’s good for both of us.

I find going to the grocery store harrowing*, and maybe I will get supplies for a whole month with my next trip.
Of course: I can always order from Amazon or even online, from the grocery store, as well.

*The last time I went, there was a woman with a persistent, bad cough in the store. So you absolutely had to come into the store? I thought.

It’s early days, but the number of positive tests on this dashboard from the University of Washington, looks promising. (The number of positive cases is stable and not increasing rapidly).

Tuesday/ St Patrick’s Day

I would have loved to go out for a beer for St Patrick’s Day, but it will just have to wait. Everyone has to stay home to fight the spread of the epidemic.

P.S. It is also not a happy St Patrick’s Day in Boston for football fans. Tom Brady announced that he is leaving The Patriots.

Another Black Monday on the markets

It was a beautiful blue-sky day here in Seattle, but another Black Monday on the financial markets.

Not the Federal Reserve’s emergency rate cut of 100 basis points (to zero), that was announced on Sunday, nor Trump’s press conference at the close of the bell on Monday, made much of a difference.

All three Wall Street indexes opened 12% down. The circuit breakers kicked in. After 15 minutes, trading resumed for the rest of the day, but without any uptick.

Falling off a cliff: we’re now almost back at January 2017 levels, when Trump took office. Trump has been very fond of tweeting out something like ‘Highest Stock Market in History!’. Just this Friday, he gloated about the day’s ‘huge gains’. (Pro tip: single-day gains are almost meaningless in such a choppy market; a ‘dead cat bounce’).
Blue skies and blossoms from my second floor window. Smith Brothers’ cow truck is delivering fresh milk to my neighbor. A little while later the UPS truck came by and dropped my new tennis shoes I had ordered online. Puget Sound Energy put up ‘No Parking’ signs along the sidewalk. They are going to chop up the asphalt any day now, to work on the gas line buried beneath it.

Saturday/ don’t be a hoarding hamster

I made a late-night grocery run on Saturday (the Safeway store on 23rd Ave).
There was enough of every kind of food. I do try to make sure that I always have two or three weeks’ supplies of all my staples.

Some shoppers go completely overboard,  or post pictures of empty shelves on social media. (Don’t do that. It just stirs up anxiety. Yes, the store may have run out of some items, but they are usually quick to restock the shelf).

World War II poster from Germany, from around 1939. ‘Hamster (purchaser), shame on you’. The word hamsterkäufe means to purchase excessively, with the intent of hoarding food (‘hamster’ because hamsters stuff their cheeks with food when they chew it).