This was the third full week of coronavirus quarantine for me.

We only ventured outside of our neighborhood once this week – for a grocery/pharmacy trip. The roads were pretty deserted, as expected. However, WA still seems to be using a fairly loose definition of “essential” for the “essential businesses” that are allowed to remain open – we saw a boutique chocolate shop and pool supply store that were still open, among others. I have the sense that people are taking this seriously – both the grocery store and pharmacy had floor markers to ensure people were distancing themselves in line, and when walking around our neighborhood, people do take the distancing guidelines seriously.

The trillion-dollar question remains, of course, “how long is this all going to last?” If I had to give a gut-check answer, I'd guess that we'll be sheltered-in-place for at least 3 more weeks, but (I'm hoping) not more than 8 weeks. If this extends past another 8 weeks, stuff is going to get (even) weirder. As even the federal government has now recognized that the peak of this pandemic is still at least 2 weeks away, I really can't see WA or businesses relaxing social-distancing for a while.

But, a day feels like a week now, so who knows what this will all look like in 2 weeks.

Reading

I finished reading Little Book of Common Sense Investing, and, honestly, I would not recommend it. It's message boils down to “only ever invest in broadly-diversified index funds”. If you don't need to be convinced of this, or are not particularly interested in why this strategy is better than active investing techniques, then there's nothing in this book that will interest you.

Face Masks: Much More Than You Wanted To Know was a good read about the efficacy of face masks in light of the coronavirus pandemic. I'm convinced at this point that the CDC guidelines against “normal people” wearing face masks were, at best, a noble lie. There's building consensus that this backfired. In broad strokes, the SSC article comes to the conclusion that these guidelines were the result of conflating “not proven to be effective” to mean “proven to be not-effective”. (It goes without saying that I'm a total non-expert in this.)

Just like the legal term for “not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” is “not guilty”, the medical communication term for “not proven effective beyond a reasonable doubt” is “not effective”. This already muddled communication gets even worse because doctors are constitutionally incapable of distinguishing “no evidence for” from “there is evidence against”…

The Four Possible Timelines for Life Returning to Normal outlines experts’ current best-guesses of how the pandemic will shake out in the medium-term. I expect this to become outdated pretty quickly, but it'll be interesting to return to this in 3-6 months and compare what happened with our best guesses in-the-moment.

When will things return to normal? The answer is simple, if not exactly satisfying: when enough of the population—possibly 60 or 80 percent of people—is resistant to COVID-19 to stifle the disease’s spread from person to person. That is the end goal, although no one knows exactly how long it will take to get there.

Cooking

I made Alton Brown's “Pantry Raid Peanut Butter Cookies” yesterday. 🍪 We had some almond butter that was a bit long-in-the-tooth, so I used that in leiu of peanut butter, and it turned out great! It's a pretty simple recipe that took me ~30 minutes start-to-finish.

They're “accidentally” gluten- and dairy-free as well, which means that everyone in my family can enjoy them. 😄

I've also started a sourdough starter (like everyone else on the internet). I think my first attempt might have been a failure: A couple times when I've “fed” it, I noticed some liquid accumulation on the top of the starter. I thought this was because I'd added too much water the previous day, and so I'd compensate by mixing it back in with some additional flour. But, according to the guide I'm using, this is likely lactic acid and alcohol, which needs to be drained off. So, I might have killed my yeast1. 😞 Fortunately, I still have a lot of time on my hands, so I can just start another.

Finally, I made a quiche on Friday. It was the first time I'd attempted an egg-based dish like this, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

  • Excalidraw is an interesting open source project for making diagrams. I've used draw.io in the past for diagramming, but it's a bit clunky. Excalidraw has a more limited feature-set, but it looks like it's easier to use.

  • @karlicoss published an interesting piece on his personal Human Programming Interface this week. I've been interested in this type of personal infrastructure for a long time (and wrote a personal data aggregator a few years back). @karlicoss’ is the most detailed and well thought-out example of this I've seen, and deserves more attention.

  • I've been using Kill the Newsletter! to convert email newsletters to RSS feeds. There's been an explosion of interesting email newsletters recently, but I don't like getting articles through my inbox (I coordinate all my reading through Feedly + Instapaper).

  • My preferred coronavirus dashboard is now 91-DIVOC by UIUC's Wade Fagen-Ulmschneider. It breaks out data by state/country, allows for normalization by population, and (critically) it only updates once per day.

    91-DIVOC Chart


  1. Though this video says that liquid accumulation is normal, and can be reincorporated without issue. 🤷‍♂️ ↩︎