Wednesday, March 11, 2020

I See a Bad Wuhan Rising

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Please hold your applause - it gets Purell all over the theater seats.
We are indeed currently in the Clam before the Storm. By which we mean that we're doing our best to get everything ready for the fast-approaching time when we have to slam our shell shut and lay low.

The tricky nature of illnesses like Covid-19 which grow exponentially, is that they seem to be doing very little for quite awhile...after which they absolutely explode to uncontrollable levels. We're maybe two weeks away from that - which is why we've been dashing from chore to chore and store to store today to make ready to hunker down (in many stores, the shelves have already been completely cleared of hunker).

The CDC has now said that people over 60 with underlying health issues (and isn't that ALL of them?) should be avoiding the outside world. And in Italy, a modern Western country which is currently giving us a free look two weeks into our future, anyone over 65 who shows up at a hospital with coronavirus symptoms and an underlying health issue isn't even assessed or admitted. They are turned away to die...including in the hospital waiting rooms and halls.

This isn't because medical providers in Italy are insensitive dicks - it's because their hospitals are already overwhelmed, so they're only admitting patients who they might be able to save.

Here in the Jarlsberg household, we are genuinely not panicking - but we are preparing with something of a fevered glint in our eyes. We've pretty much got all the necessities (except enough Purell - how the hell did we miss that?!) and we're making some financial moves online to guard against the possibility of American dollars becoming wildly devalued if and when the government starts wildly printing money to keep the nation afloat as consumer demand dies, businesses close, and people find themselves without paychecks. (Note: the devaluation of our currency is currently an unlikely but not impossible scenario. Care to field this one in the comments, John the Econ?)

And here in the offices of Stilton's Place, all employees are being required to take appropriate precautions to reduce the risk of contagion. Damn it...

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The struggle is real.

EARLY WARNING: It's entirely possible that we won't post on Friday. No health problems (yet), thank goodness - just a heap of chores that won't wait (hey, Burmese tiger traps don't dig themselves). We'll do our best to get something up here, but if not, be safe and for gosh sake be prepared if you're not already!


JustaJeepGuy said...

Well, either I'm screwed, blued, and tattooed or everything will blow over in a while. I'm no more or less prepared for Wuhan flu (oh, sorry--that's supposedly racist to call it that--but I couldn't care less) than for a tornado or a nuclear war. I'm over 65 but I just got over a semi-bad cold. Hey, maybe it was Wuhan flu, I couldn't say. I guess I'll find out whether I should have panicked in a month or so, along with everyone else. Right now I'm not panicking, but I reserve the right to do so as necessary in the future. I'm pretty well stocked up on precious metals--copper, lead, and brass....

Dan said...

If you can't find purell-type stuff or isopropyl alcohol, there's always Everclear. But it has to be 60 percent or higher, i.e. 120 proof. They don't make Bacardi 151 any more, but I see that Everclear is still around.
I also read somewhere that not all strengths are available in all states.

According to our sometimes-friend Wikipedia regarding Everclear: "It is made from grain and is bottled at 120, 151, 189, and 190 U.S. proof (60%, 75.5%, 94.5% and 95% alcohol by volume, respectively)."

Bing has a listing for 1.75 liter Everclear (190 proof) at around 36 bucks. And it can be shipped to most states, it looks like. (750 ml is 16 bucks.) I didn't check on shipping rates.

REM1875 said...

OMG this is serious !!! I am over 65 and ...... I can not see the Busty Ross Cartoon !!! I mean how much more serious can it get ???

Mike said...

I couldn't believe it two weeks ago when I was in costco and people were buying 2 packs of gallon sized jugs of purell. I guess they want to bath in it.

Mike aka Proof said...

Stilton, it is well known that you only get hunker down from a hunker duck!
That's what you get for not letting us see the Busty Ross pic!

Velveeta Processed Cheese Food said...

My go-to disinfectant is plain old chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) bleach. I go with the famous brand name sold at high concentration. It's actually cheaper per unit of active ingredient than the cheepo brands, which are much lower AI concentration. Sodium hypochlorite isn't a poison as such, it works because it's an oxidizing agent. Organic material is essentially burned up, and that effect is much more powerful against microscopic pathogens than against human tissues. Anybody who has ever wiped down a restaurant tabletop knows this. It can be used to sterilize masks (don't mix it so hot it attacks the mask material). Soak a bit and let dry. It's very volatile and will cook off into the air long before the mask is dry. Several drops in a gallon of reasonably well filtered water and you're good to go. And so on.
That said, I'm beginning to worry a bit about this Chicom flu. I'm 67 and my lungs are already trashed from decades of smoke from grass and forest fires, not to mention smoking for some of those years. I don't have emphysema but my wind is pretty bad. On the other hand, my immune system seems to be in pretty good shape, possibly as a result of a fairly filthy farm childhood. I haven't had a cold in years. I've laid in some chow and will get more, as the panic hasn't hit here yet and the shelves are fully stocked. (This isn't the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from here). If worse comes to worst, I can live off the land to some extent. The yard is full of squirrels and doves, and there are big honker geese everywhere. If it comes to that the law shouldn't be a problem, as the cops will be home shooting their own squirrels.
Anyway, best of luck in the coming weeks to Stilt and the whole gang. See you on the other side.
P.S. to Stilt. Some months ago you asked for movie suggestions and got a lot of good recommendations. If while hunkering down and news is slow, I'd enjoy hearing your views on some of them.

pkerot said...

The FLU (and coronavirus is just a variation of the flu) is a winter problem and as you can tell by looking outside, winter is OVER in Texas and the South.
Lots of people love to panic but will look back on this like the Panic of 2000 when the world was going to grind to a halt because the year was a nice round number.
You're doing a Great job Stilton, now show us more Lefty Lucy and Busty Ross

Geoff King said...

There have been 6 cases of Flu Manchu in Arizona. One confirmed, and 5 presumed (whatever that means. Of those, the confirmed and 4 of the presumed have all recovered and are now out of quarantine. The 6th case is still recovering, but out of danger.
All cases occured in the Phoenix area. That's several thousand feet in elevation and several mountain ranges away from me. As I spend much of my free time in the forest with just me and my dog, I am not concerned in the least at present.
That said, I am in a higher risk group at 63 and also a smoker, but can't even tell you the last time I had a cold.
I do worry a bit for my best friend. He is a phlebotomist at the Northern Arizona University's Medical Lab. A high risk job these days. On the other hand, he could be my canary in a coal mine to give me advance warning.

MSG Grumpy said...

I've got a great line on some Army surplus Toilet Paper.
This stuff is great, because it is survival certified.
Not only does it do the TP job,
but you can also use it to take the finish off of wood floors.

How many truck loads do you need?

MSG Grumpy

Anonymous said...

Maybe not so much hand sanitizer needed if self quarantined. Unless there is someone sick at home, boiling their eating implements and vessels is pretty much the most necessary sterile needed. You will of course still be using regular soap for everyday needs.

Unless utilities are shut off for some reason, and you already have a supply of food, your biggest enemy will be boredom. Bills can still be paid by mail (you DO have postage stamps, right ?) I have tons of reading materials to keep busy.

One potential problem with those of us with livestock - do you have enough food for them as well ? If not, will your supplier be counted on to be available for having more on hand ?

M. Mitchell Marmel said...

Stilton has a couple barrels of Clan MacGregor about. That'll kill ANYTHING. :)

Fred Ciampi said...

Lucky for us, we have been prepping for about 10 years now and are pretty remote. Wifey and I straddle 80 years between the both of us and other than being old, are blessed with good health. I pray that a vaccine is found and production can reach the levels necessary to stop this terrible plague (Yes, I said plague).

Murphy(AZ) said...

So Medical Science and the Gummint get their respective acts together and come up with a vaccine to deal with this evil bug. Anybody willing to bet that the next "crisis" will be the anti-vaxers screaming that they're NEVER going to allow that stuff in their precious bodies?

At this point, gather up whatever you think you might need in the near future (I'd go with lead and brown liquor,) WASH YOUR HANDS, and turn off your TV's! The advice is free, and worth every penny.

John said...

This colon [sic] virus AKA kung flu AKA the latest shiny object for the media is a bunch of international hyperbole. Flu kills thousands of us old farts every year. Isn't is convenient that we have another 'crisis' after the Trump impeachment went nowhere.

Q. What citizens should do in reaction to this international 'crisis'
A. Wash your hands

Snark said...

@John - exactly. This is another example of the dhimicrat media (but I repeat myself) needing another crisis to exploit. They learned well from Ol' Rohm, and will never let one go to waste (or waist) again. From an economic standpoint, it does seem to be a double Black Swan event. First the Covid-19 panic. Then the Saudi-Russia conniption. The market tanked worse when oil prices went down. Except they also tank when oil prices go up. It seems that the speculators in commodities always crank up the markets when the prices go in the unexpected direction. Hard to predict the futures, which is why I don't play with them. There is little commotion when any annual unnamed flu kills 40-50K in the US alone. This one has killed less than a tenth of that worldwide. Yes, it's early yet, but has been noted, the group that are most affected are the same ones that every other respiratory illness impacts. The only bright side would be if it gets loose in Scat Francisco or Lost Angeles. Not that I want harm to come to anyone, but those two cesspools desperately need flushing from the the top down. My only concern is being able to catch the bottom of the market so I can improve my investments.

Chuck Baker (Macon) said...

I'm reminded of what is printed in large letters on the front of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in large, helpful red letters: Don't Panic

My Dad had a great outlook on worry (concern and fear about things out of our control): if you worry about something happening and it comes pass anyway, your worry was useless. If you worry about something happening and it doesn't come to pass, you wasted a good worry (because worry is useless)

If I get sick, I either get over it or die. If I get over it, I live and can get sick again. If I die, I'll never get sick again.

Having served in the Army for 20 years, I learned to ALWAYS be prepared (that way I don't have to give two-hoots when stores temporarily run out of staples because others waited until the last minute to "prepare" before the storm. Prior planning, to be effective, must be done in advance. We can prepare and hoard and panic and fear all we want, but if everything turns to poop, it's still going to stink.

I refuse to let fear rule me, even for a minute. Fear and panic are the reasons we are seeing what we are seeing.

Normally, Stilton, you are the voice of calm and reason, a cornerstone of sanity in a crazy world. What happened that makes today’s post seem a little unhinged?

Duke of URL VFM#391 said...

Stilton, why are you screwing around with over-priced "hand sanitizers"? They are only useful for keeping a tiny bottle of it in your pocket for when you're out in public and *have* to put your hands on filthy public things, such as the seats/poles/doors in subways. As ANY doctor/nurse will tell you (and as the CDC/WHO have repeatedly said), WASH YOUR HANDS WITH SOAP AND WATER. That will do the job better/cheaper than the commercial crap.

Will Hepburn said...

Stilt, I love your sense of humor and the way in which you turn words. May you live a long and healthy life so I can continue to enjoy your work for many years.

As a professional portfolio manager and college instructor for 30 years, let me comment on your dollar doomsday worry.

All currencies can't go down, as they all float in opposition to each other. At least one has to be going up.

The things that make a currency strong (making everyone want to own it in a crunch) are (1) a strong economy. As many problems we have here, we are waay ahead of most of the world. Some say China is our economic equal, but not yet - if you even believe their numbers. (2) a strong military. That one is pretty clear. (3) political stability. Although we have a few buffoons spouting off, our republic is one of the most stable in the world.

So, when the stuff hits the fan, most folks want to own our currency, regardless of how much of it the gummint is printing.

In addition, when the it hits the fan, everyone in the world wants to buy the safest investments there are, which are US Treasuries. As low as our interest rates are, yields in Europe and Japan are even lower, making our bonds most attractive. And foreigners have to pay for our bonds in dollars, which they have to buy first, another factor holding the value of our dollar up.

Your concern about the government printing so many dollars that the value is destroyed by inflation is a common one, but there are stronger deflationary forces at work (the Internet eliminating one middle man after another and lowering costs, cheap doodads from overseas, etc.) that ought to keep inflation low for quite a while.

About the virus, MOST people won't get sick. And, MOST of the ones who do recover just fine.

So relax, have fun and wash your hands.

American Cowboy said...

@ Chuck Baker said, "I refuse to let fear rule me, even for a minute. Fear and panic are the reasons we are seeing what we are seeing."

That is the attitude everyone should adopt. It is the same principle that happens with very serious injuries. The injury may not be fatal, but shock is. Panic and fear will cause much more serious consequences than the virus, in the long term. Just my opinion though, prompted also by refusal to let fear or panic rule my life.

CenTexTim said...

I agree with the hand-washing crowd, but if you really want hand sanitizer it's pretty easy to make it yourself. Simply mix 2 to 3 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part aloe vera gel. The key is to end up with a mixture that's at least 60% alcohol, which is the minimum necessary to be an effective disinfectant.

Full instructions here.

As for homemade toilet paper, the woods are full of it. Just don't use anything with three leaves...

Colby, Jack said...

@ Will Hepburn As a fellow PM I mostly agree with one caveat: if US cranks up the printing press, then odds are everyone else is responding the same way. There may be exceptions, e.g. fortress Switzerland. But we want(and like) money because of what it can buy us, either now or in the future. Owning the best of a bad lot of currencies will be cold comfort when EVERYTHING is more expensive; things just won't get more expensive here AS FAST as elsewhere.

It's kinda like what we've been through recently, actually. After all, the official figures say that inflation has been near zero or even below zero much of the time since the so-called Great Recession; nevertheless, a Plaza-burger at my favorite haunt here in Minneapolis has gone from $10 to $15 in that time.

I'm not a gold bug but "the relic" would make sense in the above scenario. Also, US stocks, once the current turmoil settles down(which it always does).

Pat Cummings said...

Ah, Stilt... "...they seem to be doing very little for quite awhile...after which they absolutely explode to uncontrollable levels. And here I thought you were going to stop talking about cyclical infections, i.e. impeachment attempts in Congress.

"...we are preparing with something of a fevered glint in our eyes." Aha! Now I understand; you're not panicking unreasonably, you're self-isolating because of your fever! In that case, Stilt, I totally forgive you for forcing Busty (and presumably others around you) to protect themselves from you.

@All: Wuhan Flu. Chicom Flu. Flu Manchu. Kung Flu. Blue Flu (because it's certainly not Red Flu!) I suggest that mocking names are at least as effective as Purell in combating the worst symptoms of the viral epidemic: fear and panic. (And thanks to @JustaJeepGuy, @Velveeta Processed Cheese Food, @Geoff King, @John, and my own dear spouse for contributing to the list today...)

@Chuck Baker (Macon): Your dad and my dad must have gone to the same school. (I bet they had uniforms in the same color, as well.)

@CenTexTim: I agree, just let them be, those leaves of three!

MAJ Arkay said...

Folks, if you can't get your hands on the high quality bleach brand, or any bleach at all, you're not screwed. Seems the panic stricken haven't yet emptied the shelves of melaleuca oil (tea tree oil) or thyme oil over in the essential oils section. Both, mixing a few drops into clean water, do almost as good a job of cleaning out germs, viruses, and bacteria as does bleach.

We keep melaleuca oil and thyme oil based cleaning products on hand all the time. Between those, normal soap (not the antibiotic soap), exercise, sleep, and good country living, we haven't been sick in 10 years.

Now, old farts that we are, we're in the danger range for COVID-19 fatalities, good health or not. So we are taking basic precautions, plus a few more each time we visit Mom in her Independent Living apartment complex. We're more afraid for her than us, even though at 95, she's probably more healthy than we are.

Basic precautions, not panic, will get us through. And if we do need to self-quarantine, we have more than six months of survival supplies. We just don't have a yellow flag yet, but a yellow t-shirt on the closed gate will probably do it...

Colby Muenster said...

It certainly is a good idea to be prepared, and not just for things like the beer flu. Folks make fun of "preppers," but preppers are just, well... prepared. My parents could have been considered preppers, but they were just like others of the greatest generation. When times are good, you put up stores for when times are bad.

Fortunately for me, Mrs. Muenster has been this way for years, so we are fairly ready for a few weeks of isolation (other than my beer and booze supply is a bit low - need to remedy that soon). Mrs. Muenster sometimes shops at our local LDS (Mormon) store for staples that are canned, and have extremely long shelf lives. This stuff is reasonably priced, high quality, and the Mormon folks at this store are always friendly and willing to help us non-Mormon types. For example, you can get potato flakes in those giant cans (like old coffee cans), that has a shelf life of thirty years! And they taste just like real potatoes when cooked. Y'all check for a store like this in your area.

@MAJ Arkay,
Thanks for the good advice. I was not aware of the usefulness of tea tree oil or thyme oil. I'm betting Mrs. Muenster has both, knowing her propensity towards all things organic and home cures. I wa also not aware of teh yellow flag thing. I assume if you are sick, you are supposed to display this on the front of your home. I shall Google it.

Colby Muenster said...

Hmmm.... so apparently a yellow flag was used by sailing ships to warn others that they were under quarantine. Or, they were used by sailing ships to indicate that they were NOT under quarantine.

Either way, I'd think it may be a good way to "raise a flag" to others if you're self quarantined in your home and don't wish to share your virus with others.

John the Econ said...

Wow, I guess I'm on the spot this morning. You know that I generally hesitate to give out investment advice beyond saying that you will never go broke betting against whatever Paul Krugman says in the pages of the New York Times.

That said, I really don't think that things are going to be that bad. The real threat isn't the virus, but the bad decisions that will be made in the name of the virus. But you already know that.

IMHO, government resources and efforts should be directed towards preventing and mitigating the virus itself. Jumping ahead and trying to fix the economy not only won't work, but will just result in more economic pain, as @Stilton points out. The economy will fix itself. (That's the most awesome feature of free-market capitalism) Trump's tax cut suggestion won't work much, any more than the handouts the Democrats want. It was always my opinion that the 2008 crisis would have resolved itself on its own within 18 months had the government just got out of the way. Instead, we had the better part of a decade of mediocrity as the Obama Administration not only tried to fix it, but took the opportunity to fundamentally transform America. I hope that the Trump Administration realizes this.

Also consider that the Democrats actually got their wish! We may be in an honest recession by election time. (Not the phony one they started pushing the day after the Muller report landed with a thud) But actually, this might be a good thing in that after over a decade, a recession was inevitable anyway, and few people could or will lay blame for a recession today at Trump's feet as they certainly would have had there been no virus crisis. Biden's Make America 2008 Again theme will go nowhere. Most people will want to go back to where we were in January 2020, not January 2009.

As for what will happen to your dollars: I don't think your dollars are any less safe than they'd be if Bernie Sanders were to be President and the Democrats were take Congress. On a global scale, the dollar is still the world's most respected currency and will remain the world's reserve currency. Last year, fanciful pessimists were arguing that the Chinese Yuan could conceivably take over that role. That wasn't realistic last year, and that's certainly not the case now. There's no where else better to go.

John the Econ said...

As I've said before, I won't tell anyone what is going to happen because I certainly don't know, and I think that anyone who says that they do is either a liar or idiot. But I will tell you what I am doing financially, which is not very much. Last week I was buying with spare cash, which looks like it was a bit too soon. (And I'm now really regretting the flyer I took on Boeing last year) My window for returns is 10-to-20 years, just as it was in 2008, so time is on my side. In 2008, the doomsayers were screaming "America is over!", and I was buying. Why? Because if America was indeed over, sitting on a pile of cash, gold, or whatever wasn't going to save you all that much. I did extremely well financially, even though my business was ho-hum for most of that time. I'm still optimistic for the long term. And if I'm wrong, it won't matter much.

Mrs. Econ & I are fortunate that we both mostly work at home, so our productivity and paychecks will not be affected as many others inevitably will be. I have some clients who are going to get slammed by this, (One of my oldest clients is a travel agency) but others who are positioned to actually come out ahead (Another of my oldest is in wholesale cleaning supplies) so I am lucky that my business will likely be a wash. I also realize that there will be many out there, and some of you who may not be in such fortunate positions. In that case, I'd say being liquid in cash (being able to live without income for at least 6 months) is the place to stay.

And I think that in a year or so after the dust settles and if the government doesn't screw it up like they did in 2008, America will actually be in a stronger position economically and globally. American companies have been second-guessing their outsourcing and just-in-time supply chain management for years now. They are certainly re-evaluating being dependent upon single suppliers in single countries, like China. I see a lot of manufacturing returning to our shores as China becomes more expensive and less reliable, both economically and politically. As long as energy remains cheap on our shores, that makes the appeal even greater. Another Trump promise coming true?

Our biggest threat are those who think they can manage the economy better than the economy itself.

In the meantime, my beer fridge in the garage was already filled to capacity before any of this started.

Sortahwitte said...

I just came from two meetings. The first was with the Local Emergency Planning Committee. I'm a volunteer due to my work experiences in hazmat, firefighting, and an oil refinery. The second was with our county health department with input from the Oklahoma Health Department. In both, I was impressed with the preparedness level of professionals and volunteers. If the worst comes down the line, I feel we are as ready as we can be.

Sioux and I have worked on being prepared for quite a few years. We have our water, food, prescriptions, and other items already in place and verified to be in good shape. I will turn 72 this summer and she is almost 71. We feel no panic or apprehension. I have had health problems in the past, but am in good shape for the shape I'm in. We continue to be relaxed as long as we don't watch the tv news. See you on the other side.

Rod said...

To all disappointed old farts: Isn't that busty behind the scrubs & mask? I'm hoping so.

Old Cannonballs said...

Golly Stilt, I never realized until today how beautiful Busty's eyes are.

Fred Ciampi said...

Busty has eyes?

M. Mitchell Marmel said...

@Fred: Apparently, they're up THERE...

Colby, Jack said...

@Rod At the risk of causing trouble: under those scrubs Busty is wearing that bikini. And under that bikini...?

Pat Cummings said...

Got another to add to my list of names for COVID-19: Chinee Fru

Because when they tell you to "stop referring to it as Wuhan Flu, you racist," you get to comply with the request and double down at the same time...

@Colby, Jack: Yep. Under that bikini, coronavirus particles by the billions. Now is it time to panic?!?!?

@ᗷᗩᎢᕼᖇᕼ etc.: We already have phone plans that don't expose us to Iraqi "honey." But thanks for the ad-blare, there.

NaCly Dog said...


Thank you for staying safe. Laughter is so precious, it should be safeguarded like a Presidential Candidate.

When the madness subsides, two ideas for you. Ivory Original Bar Soap - 10 bars - 3.17oz $3.99A brick of Ivory Soap, at Target. Walmart or a grocery store might be cheaper.

A gallon hand sanitizer refill jug. I got mine 4 months ago. Well worth it. I have pump hand sanitizers in all vehicles, byt the door, in the kichen, and bathroom.

Hand washing is the new head on a swivel. Because COVID-19 has a Mattis plan.

Fish Out of Water said...

As the Dow continues plunge.

Rod said...

@Fish above: Thanks (sincerely) for your vigilance & sharing but all I have to see is "MSN" in that address & to hell with it. If I miss something good I will stand corrected. In fact the headline may be correct if folks don't or can't ride this out.

I do know that when S&P500 dropped 8.4% across February & DJIA dropped 10%; one portion only of our portfolio... the highest risk with equities, but still reasonably balanced... only dropped 4%; and I hope those fund managers are studying buying opportunities when Democrats & media have to move on to the next round of bullshit. Because "that's all they got".

Stan da Man said...

My new favorite name for it is Wuhu Flu. Kung Flu previous fave. Flu Manchu also brilliant.
But yes, "Covid-19" sounds all Sci-Fi scary, like Assault Rifle. Silly flu names remind us that while worthy of respect, it's not that frightening.
Stop the freaking panic, already!!

Chinese factories are starting to come back on line, reportedly we'll have TP again in a week, or so.

TP panic is apparently caused by when one person sneezes, 30 others shit their pants...

Pat Cummings said...

@Stan da Man: Who knew TP came from China? I thought it came from tree farms in Washington State and Oregon... Both areas with high numbers of Chinee Fru cases, BTW.

Latest from Washington (State)... Note the new name for the virus, too: SARS-CoV-2!

Latest from Oregon...

M. Mitchell Marmel said...

Just heard a good 'un on another forum:

"Pandemic or Dempanic? You decide!"