Post #554: Italians sing, Americans stream

Why I’m giving up streaming video for the duration

Or, at least until more information is available.  Because while news reports have Italians responding to quarantine by singing in the streets, here in the USA, I think we’re all sitting around streaming video.  (With some exceptions.)

The only useful thing in this post is the following:  If you aren’t finding adequate course content for your kids via the FCPS Blackboard system, take a look at the Loudoun County Schools website.

My daughter also highly recommends Khan Academy as a resource for course materials. Continue reading Post #554: Italians sing, Americans stream

Post #553: Updating Post #550, the week ahead

In Post #550, I presented the results from:  “The United States Is Not a Coronavirus Outlier”, by Kevin Drum, in Mother Jones.  In a nutshell, most western countries appear to be following the same trend line that Italy set, in terms of number of cases.  I.e., they all have about the same growth rate in terms of confirmed coronavirus cases. Continue reading Post #553: Updating Post #550, the week ahead

Post #552: Folk medicine

I am not a physician and this posting does not constitute medical advice.

One of the oddest aspects of the coronavirus epidemic is that the Chinese are using traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in addition to modern medicine.  And I don’t mean, people are buying folk remedies.  That may well be happening.  What I mean is, TCM is being used in the hospital setting. By report, on-order-of 85% of diagnosed cases have received some form of TCM in addition to standard medical treatment (per this reference).

I’m sure that most people scoff at any use of folk medicine/traditional medicine in this context.  And the Chinese government apparently aims for some sort of propaganda angle in the use of TCM.  And any benefits, if real, appear to be quite modest.  And, frankly, if you read what TCM practitioners actually do, it does in fact sound wildly unscientific.  And, finally, there is little evidence basis for use of TCM here, in the sense that western medicine recognizes it — in terms of controlled clinical trials.

And yet, I’m not one of those scoffing at the use of folk medicine in this context.  In this post I try to explain why.  Continue reading Post #552: Folk medicine

Post #550: Looking one week ahead.

This began as a compendium of a few things I found most informative about the current coronivirus pandemic.  But in the end, it’s a look at the week ahead.  How will this probably look one week from now?  Short answer:  Cumulative US cases should rise to about 10,000 (from about 3000 currently), but the US hospital system should have no major difficulties through the end of the week. Continue reading Post #550: Looking one week ahead.

Post #549: Repurpose the Wolf Trap Motel

I mean, now.  This post has nothing to do with MAC zoning.  In the current situation, the Wolf Trap Motel is an asset, and in this post, I urge the Town Council to realize that.  Even though, as discussed in Post #535, the Town nominally has no public health role.  I really don’t care about the niceties at this point.  If Italy is the model, we’re maybe 1.5 weeks from having the poop hit the fan.  I’d like to see that the Town of Vienna is anticipating that, and doing what it can. Continue reading Post #549: Repurpose the Wolf Trap Motel

Post #548: Yeah, a post about coronavirus – UPDATED

As of Friday 3/13/2020 it looks like FCPS is going to address this issue in the worst possible way:  Close the schools, but with no deadlines stated.  You can read their notice at this link.  A one-day closure was scheduled for Monday, but schools are now closed today as well.  This was probably inevitable, given that Loudoun County schools closed, and now that several states have closed schools statewide.  At this point, I would not expect Fairfax to reopen the schools any time soon.

Today, the Ancient and Honorable College of William and Mary announced it was going to on-line classes.  This will bring my daughter home for a while.

Having the current epidemic it hit home like that tends to focus one’s attention.  Hence this post.  For what it’s worth.  I made my living as a health economist, so that’s the viewpoint you’re going to get here.  Let’s look at the numbers. Continue reading Post #548: Yeah, a post about coronavirus – UPDATED

Post #547: The flip side of your declining 401K

The actual 2020 figure is nominally $34.5M.  But it’s not quite as simple as that.

This is just a quick post to calculate what interest rate the Town paid on its (nominally) $34.5M bond issue sold yesterday.  The results of that bond sale are reported on the Town’s website at this link.

The Town agreed to issue bonds with a $34.5M face value, a 1.86% nominal interest rate, and a $3.1M premium.  That last bit — the premium — is the confounding factor.  That extra money is the reason that the true interest rate isn’t 1.86%.  And neither the Town nor any other social-media-type discussion that I have seen has managed to explain it correctly.

So let me explain exactly what that is. (And, separately, in a different post, I’m going to try to track the premium dollars from prior bond issues, because they effectively are not reported with the Town’s capital accounts.  I tried but failed to do that last year, with the 2018 premium.  Those dollars have to be reported somewhere, I just have to find them.) Continue reading Post #547: The flip side of your declining 401K

Post #543: Genteel panic buying

Source:  Target website.

I went shopping at the Pan Am Safeway last night and, for the first time, there was clear evidence of some panic buying going on.  But after a while, I noticed that this was of a different sort than occurred at Home Depot (Post #535).

So, what do these things have in common:

  • Shrimp-flavored ramen
  • Unsalted saltine crackers
  • Generic toilet paper

It’s what remains after what I can only describe as genteel panic buying.  Sure, we’re hoarders, but we’re only going to hoard the good stuff.  So the list above is among the items that remained nearly untouched, even as shoppers attempted to clear the shelves of the more desirable stuff. Continue reading Post #543: Genteel panic buying

Post #542: Needless risk

Source:  Town of Vienna.  This is the agenda for tonight’s Town Council meeting.

Dear Town Council and Planning Commission:  Please extend the MAC moratorium, right now.   Please don’t wait until the last minute, because that’s looking like an increasingly risky strategy.

If you agree with that, you don’t need to read the rest of this.

Edit:  I needed to make two corrections to the original post.  One is for the Vice-Mayor, which I misstate.  A more substantive correction is that, in this case, the Planning Commission’s role is purely advisory.  They would make a recommendation to the Town Council, but Town Council could chose to ignore such a recommendation.

Continue reading Post #542: Needless risk