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).

Friday/ the United States is in a National Emergency

Gov. Jay Inslee expanded school closures and prohibited large gatherings across all of Washington State on Friday, in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Health officials reported at least five new deaths, and more than 560 people have now tested positive.
– Associated Press

Where coronavirus cases have been reported (official count: 2,100 with sparse testing). More than a handful of experts put the number of infected Americans already, as an estimated number, in the hundreds of thousands. [Graphic by the New York Times].
This is a scary graph. There is no sign whatsoever, that the ‘curve is flattening’ (the number of new cases reported every day, still increases at an exponential rate).

Trump finally announced today — some 30 minutes before Wall Street closed for the week— that he declares a National Emergency* over the coronavirus.  He shook hands with at least three Fortune 500 executives (a bad example in the time of coronavirus), and proceeded to exchange barbs with the press. ‘Such a nasty question’ he said, without answering, when asked why he disbanded the pandemic response team when he took office.

Panic buying erupted on Wall Street, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other indexes up almost 10%.

Okaayy .. but there is going to be a recession. How can there not be? The world is grinding to a halt. The three largest cruise ship lines have announced a suspension in cruising for 30 days. Delta Airlines says the drop-off in business is worse than after 9/11. If any number of states is like Washington State or the State of New York, the national economic impact will be significant.

*The Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1987 is activated. When the Stafford Act is activated to deal with a pandemic, the federal government can begin providing direct emergency medical care to citizens throughout the country. This could include the establishment of temporary hospitals, for example, to ease the nation’s projected shortage of intensive care beds. The government could also use the act to provide food, water, medicine and other supplies to Americans. [Source: USA Today].

Thursday/ the ‘end of the world’?

From the German translation of ‘The Shooting Star (French: L’Étoile mystérieuse)’ by Belgian cartoonist Hergé, 1942.
A giant meteoroid was projected to hit Earth at 20:12:30 pm. A very anxious Tintin dials for a countdown to the exact time of doom. NOW .. ! he thinks, and then There! It is the End Of The World! dropping the phone and covering his ears. 
Tintin and Snowy survived, and ran out into the street, celebrating.
P.S. Even in this internet & smartphone age, the US Naval Observatory still offers a dial-in number to get the exact time. Dial 202-762-1401.

More cancellations today: the entire NBA season cancelled — and the NCAA’s March Madness games, as well (Madness? No, necessary).

Trump’s muddled speech about banning travel from Europe to ‘stop the spread of the coronavirus’ landed with a thud in the financial markets, as did the Federal Reserve’s announcement today, that they will intervene in the markets and pump in more than $1.5 trillion (yes, trillion with a T).

The United States is having a crisis of confidence in the President, and the White House, during this nationwide public health emergency.

It’s only Wednesday

• WHO declares COVID-19 disease a pandemic (at last)
• Seattle district schools closed for two weeks, as are gatherings of 250+ people, or smaller – if people are going to be ‘packed in like sardines’
• Italy closed for business (except drug stores & grocery stores)
• Stock market falls further; Boeing stock slumps a stunning 18% just today
• NBA league games cancelled, nationwide
• St Patrick Day’s parades cancelled in Boston & NYC
• Crowds at political rallies cancelled
• Stock market falls further; Boeing stock slumps a stunning 18% just today
• Late Wednesday, Trump read something from the teleprompter in the Oval Office that bans foreigners arriving from Europe for 30 days, excluding the UK

My friends and I debated if we should go out for our Wednesday night beers. In the end we said: let’s go eat, drink and be merry.
Who knows what tomorrow, next week and next month will bring?

Tuesday/ numbers that grow exponentially

‘If you do the math, it gets very disturbing’, said Inslee. ‘In 7 to 8 weeks, there could be 64,000 people infected in the State of Washington if we don’t somehow slow down this epidemic. And the next week, it’s 120,000 — and the next week, it’d be a quarter of a million’.
– Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, Tue. Mar 10, 2020.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee will announce tomorrow that all gatherings of more than 250 people, are banned in the Seattle metro area. The current coronavirus numbers may seem small: a total of 267 infections in Washington State (24 deaths).

The trouble is —
1. the real number might be a lot bigger, and
2. if left unchecked, infected persons can each infect between 2 and 3 others, making for exponential growth in the number of infections.

Check out the graph below: my own rough calculation starting with the 267, and repeatedly multiplying by 2.5 each week.  We know know that an infected person will typically start to show symptoms some 5-6 days after exposure.

For this graph I assumed a starting number of 267, and that the number grows by 2.5x every week. It shows that 267 becomes 670 after a week, then 1,700. It takes a shockingly short time to get to 10,000 from there, and then only 3 weeks to 100,000+.

Black Monday, the 2020 edition

Well, it was not quite Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987 – but I see there is already a Wikipedia entry for today.

What happened? Well, a Russian–Saudi Arabian oil price war erupted over the weekend. The Saudis are planning to ramp up oil production, so that low crude prices put the Russians and the North American shale producers out of business. This situation has actually been years in the making.

So together with the instability brought on by the coronavirus crisis, that was too much. The S&P 500 was down by 7% almost immediately after the markets opened in New York. So the circuit breakers kicked in to halt trading for 15 minutes. The idea is to let traders step back and ‘take a breath’. With all the high-frequency & automated trading happening today, who knows if this is any help at all, though. (At the end of the day the S&P was down by more than 7%). 

CNBC’s Bob Pisani and Wilfred Frost at the close of the trading session on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange today. The Dow ended down 7.8%, and the S&P 500 ended down 7.6%. Late on Monday, the Trump Administration floated payroll tax cuts to try to bolster the markets, but there is very likely more pain ahead for investors. Watching the coverage of the markets had a little bit of a post-9/11, and a ‘2008 global financial crisis’ feel to it. It is now likely that Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea will slip into a recession this year, with the United States not too far behind if this continues for too long.

Sunday/ spring colors

I went hunting for spring flowers and blossoms this afternoon, just up to five or six blocks around my house.
All I know is that the gorgeous pink one is a camellia, and the bright yellow one, a dandelion weed flower.

Sunday 2 a.m./ a very witching time of night

‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on.
-From William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ (written 1599-1601), Act 3, Scene 2.

At 2 a.m. Sunday morning local time here in the United States, it was that silly moment of the year again. Clocks were made to ‘spring forward’ by one hour (adjusted to Daylight Saving Time).

Of course, only some clocks spring forward by themselves.
The others all have to be adjusted manually.

Clockwise from top left: my Dream Machine alarm clock, bathroom clock, wrist watch, kitchen clock, iPhone clock, coffee machine clock, landline phone clock, desktop PC clock, digital camera clock, TV clock, microwave oven clock, oven clock, Toyota Camry car clock. Only the iPhone, TV and PC have smart clocks.

Friday/ still a long way down?

I guess it could have been an uglier week on Wall Street. (The three major indices actually ended up more or less where they started the week).

A great February jobs report* did not help at all today: it is in the past, and says nothing about the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Donald Trump would do well to just shut up about it — but he cannot. He has to be the bride at the wedding, the corpse at the funeral, and the expert on the coronavirus.

*273,000 jobs added; employment rate at 3.5%.

The carnage of the 2008-09 financial crisis was epic. Man! Hopefully that end point on the far right, is not even close to where we are headed with the economic impact of the coronavirus. The United States stumbled in its initial coronavirus response (unprepared, faulty test kits, muddled messages from the White House), and will only now be able to start large-scale testing of patients and people at risk.

Thursday/ empty places, around the world

Here’s a remarkable set of ‘Before’ & ‘After’ satellite photos, published by the New York Times.
It shows how public places around the world have emptied out because of the arrival of the coronavirus.

Wednesday/ my vote is in

I sent my vote in today. It’s so easy in Washington State: you get your paper ballot in the mail, you fill it out, the mailman picks it up. No stamp needed.

As someone said on Twitter about voters in California and Texas that had to wait in line for 4 hours or more on a Tuesday workday, at a polling station: that is not ‘democracy in action, in America’. That is voter suppression. 

My voters’ pamphlet, with my digital ‘I voted’ sticker .. and I put some words in George Washington’s mouth.

Super Tuesday/ Biden now in front

Here’s the pledged delegate count, as reported late on Tuesday night by the New York Times. Biden 228, Sanders 211, Warren 13, Bloomberg 8. It sure seems to be down to a two-person race (first to 1,191 delegates wins). And it seems Bloomberg’s campaign has to do some introspection.

Super Tuesday turned out to be a momentous day for the Joe Biden campaign, and the tide seems to have turned in his favor.

Biden won in at least 9 of the 14 contested primaries. Texas was too close to call by late Tuesday night. Biden will likely lose California to Bernie Sanders, but he will probably make the 15% cut-off, to still garner some of the state’s huge number of 415 pledged delegates.

Update Wed 3/4: Michael Bloomberg announced that he is dropping out of the race, and endorsing Joe Biden. By now the delegate count is Biden 432-Sanders 388.

Monday/ fist bump – no handshake, nor high-five

In doubles tennis, it has become standard practice for the partners to high-five and low-five between points, all done to promote team spirit.

Well, with the coronavirus going around here in Washington State*, we decided at our regular social tennis on Sunday, that we will go with fist bumps instead.

*The count is 14 cases so far, of which 6 had turned fatal. The local Costco store was swamped this weekend with shoppers, stocking up on basic food supplies and other necessities. (People! Keep calm and carry on).

June 3, 2008, after the Montana and South Dakota primaries: candidate Barack Obama had secured enough delegates to clinch the nomination of the Democratic Party for President of the United States. This playful fist bump with wife Michelle, was right before he delivered his victory speech in St Paul, Minnesota that night. (Photo: Dunand/AP)
P.S. Super Tuesday is here. Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer had all suspended their campaigns by Monday night. Joe Biden emerged out of the South Carolina primary on Saturday as the main challenger to Bernie Sanders. Mike Bloomberg is the ‘X’ factor, and is looking to draw enough votes on Tuesday to prove him a viable candidate in the race.

Sunday/ the daffodils are out

I found these daffodils in Volunteer Park today.

Daffodils (genus: Narcissus) are among the oldest flowers cultivated by humans. (Photo taken with my iPhone Xs in Portrait Mode, to get the depth-of-field effect, with the background blurred).

Saturday/ happy Leap Day!

Researchers from the University of California Irvine discovered that during landing, toads’ muscles adapt to the varying intensity of impact. As the creatures hop over longer distances, their landing muscles increasingly shorten in anticipation of larger impacts. UC Irvine biologist Emanuel Azizi says that toads are ideal for studying jumping and landing because they’re so good at it, and that studying them provides the basic science on how muscles respond during high-impact behaviors like landing or falling. [Video clip by University of California @uofcalifornia on].

P.S. Also: it’s Saturday, so the stock market cannot go down.

Friday/ the end is nigh

The South Carolina presidential primary is tomorrow, Saturday.

Saturday will be followed soon by Super Tuesday (Mar 3), leaving only two or three candidates of the remaining 7 contenders in the race for the Democratic Party’s candidate for President.

This Mike Bloomberg flyer came in the mail today. ‘Undefeated’ in his three runs for New York City mayor, yes. He used a lot of money on that third campaign for mayor, though.  And I see the Bloomberg campaign uses the word ‘progressive’ to describe him. ‘Pragmatic’ would be more accurate. Anyway, it’s not clear at all if Bloomberg will become a viable candidate, but we should know soon: Super Tuesday on Mar 3 is a critical milestone for his campaign.

Thursday/ no points for your sensationalism

Whoah. What a rough day, and a rough week so far, for stock markets around the world. The Dow Jones Industrial Average index declined another 4.4% today. Yikes.

Oh, and here you go, CNN Business.
I corrected your sensational and misleading headline for you.

Black Monday in 1987 saw a decline of ‘only’ 508 points, but that was 22.6%. In one day. And in 2008, there were three days with declines around 700 points, which came to more than 7% each. The Dow Jones is an index, and since the point figure goes up dramatically over time, points cannot be used to compare declines with one another. Percentages must be used. It’s elementary school math.

Wednesday/ all-time low for the 10 Year T-Bond

Well, the Dow Jones Industrial Average index tried to close in the green today, but failed. The next few weeks — and even months — may get ugg-ly for investors.

The 10-Year US Treasury Bond’s rate closed at an all-time low today: 1.310 %. So: many investors are putting their money into these bonds to seek safety from the stock market sell-off, driving the rates down.

Update Fri 2/28:  When all had been said and done at the end of a tumultuous  week, the 10-Year had closed down even lower, at 1.13 %. So going to 1.00 % is certainly possible.

Update Tue 3/3:  And there it was. The 10-year US Treasury note yield ended the day at 1.005%, after falling to an intraday record low of 0.914%. Earlier in the day, the Federal Reserve Bank surprised everyone with a 0.50% emergency rate cut to the federal funds rate (now down to 1.00-1.25%, from 1.50-1.75%).

Here’s a 1979 $10,000 Treasury Bond, gloriously printed on paper, and look at that rate: 10 1/8 %. These days transactions and records of ownership are all done electronically, in the same way that paper share certificates for company stock ownership are no longer issued. I wonder if we will see 10% interest rates again here in the United States, in my lifetime, given the tight hands-on approach of the Federal Reserve, that we have become accustomed to after 2008. [From Wikipedia].