Surviving Quarantine

I’m alive and well. I’m bunkering down with my family doing my best to still get some things done, even with all the kids at home all the time.

Saw this on our walk this morning.

Here are a few thoughts I have on getting through this.


After the first few days of largely unstructured time, my wife created a schedule for the kids. The intention was to use it as a rough guide for how to get through the day. But our oldest regularly checks it and informs us what is supposed to be happening at any given time.

The schedule has some great benefits.

  1. It ensures a variety of activities. This gives the kids lots of things to look forward to and provides us some means to encourage them to behave and get chores done. Certain activities are dependent on good behavior.
  2. It creates a routine. I used to be skeptical of the value of routine for kids. But we have always benefited from routines. They help me to keep on track with all the stuff I’ve got to keep track of. And they set expectations for the kids so they know what’s coming next.
  3. It makes flexibility easier. Because we know what things must get done, it helps us do that and have time to move things around when necessary.

Food Storage

We’ve had a lot of peace of mind partially because I listened to a “The Daily” episode about coronavirus early in March. The one suggestion to prepare was to have a month’s supply of food and prepare for quarantine. So, a couple days later, I went out and got that. We had some portions of this supply because our church encourages emergency preparedness. The coronavirus gave us the extra incentive to buy the rest. Here’s another resource that may help if you’d like to start working on your own.

I’m not encouraging hoarding. The time to go out and buy a bunch of food at once, like I did, has passed. Fortunately, there is still plenty of food in the grocery stores. Consider buying just a little more than you’ll eat each week and slowly build a cushion into your food supply.

Having this supply has helped us to wait out the worst panic and gives us peace of mind in case we need to stay home completely.

Keep improving.

Whenever I see posts about people being bored while social distancing, I think wistfully of the last time I was bored. Pretty sure it was around six years ago when Naomi started walking.

The issue for us isn’t boredom, but maintaining sanity when surrounded by children and having little time to ourselves. So, I’ve been trying to fit some personal time into all the activities on that schedule.

  1. Writing: it’s been spotty, as evidenced by the lack of blog posts. But I did figure out a structural element for my NaNoWriMo novel that will help me revise it into something more readable. Maybe by this November it will be ready to share.
  2. Habit: Do yardwork 15 minutes, 5 days a week. Going well! I’ve done most of the drip and mist irrigation for our garden, pulled out some diseased rosebushes, and raked up the spring droppings of the live oaks. Live oaks are really, really messy trees.undefinedundefined
  3. Project: Due to all that food storage we bought, we have reorganized our pantry. We realized a while ago that there is room to extend the pantry shelves 4 inches and we would gain a lot of room by doing so. Buying all that food storage gave me the incentive to actually start working on that. I’ve cut the shelves and now I just need to sand and paint them. Once that’s done, I’ll move on to the desk.

January’s Habit

I haven’t given up on January’s habit for daily physical activity. I’ve been running and biking at least 3 times a week. I’m hoping that May’s triathlon will still happen, though I have a feeling it will be postponed. And in between, I do some yoga and stretching. This has helped with my knee, which gave me trouble when I started training in earnest for last year’s triathlon.

February’s Habit

With Alisha home all the time, I find it easier to avoid snacking. Plus, she is trying to get down to her pre-pregnancy weight and challenged me to lose the same number of lbs. I figured I didn’t have chance against a nursing mother, but so far I’m holding my own.

What have you been doing to get through social distancing and stay-at-home orders?

Bailout? Or Hamilton was right and Jefferson was wrong.

Some people have asked why the government can afford to spend $1.5 trillion to bailout banks and big business but not pay off student loans.

Whether such an action was right isn’t the point of this post. Correcting misconceptions is.

1. The Federal Reserve is not the government.

The Federal Reserve is a system authorized by Congress that acts independently of any branch of government. The president appoints the national board, but the board acts without needing approval from any branch of government. This is why Trump complains so loudly about them – it’s the only power he has over the Federal Reserve.

Injecting money into the economy is something the Federal Reserve can do by convincing it’s board – only seven people. They have the authority to manage the money supply and the mandate to control inflation.

Paying off student loans or other similar actions would require passing a bill through Congress – hundreds of people with differing ideologies. Then it requires the president to sign off.

Some action might be possible via executive order, but that is limited to what Congress and the Constitution allow the president to do already. Forgiving all student loan debt probably doesn’t fall under that power.

2. The Fed didn’t just hand out money.

The Fed is essentially offering short terms loans to banks. This is a far cry from forgiving $1.5 trillion in student debt. I make no judgement here on the economic value of either action, just pointing out that giving someone a loan and forgiving a loan are not the same thing.

3. The Fed’s role is to prevent a panic.

The Federal Reserve was created to help prevent bank runs. While the leadup to the great depression is the most famous (think Bailey Savings and Loans), bank runs were far more common before the creation of the Federal Reserve. Now the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Depsrtment guarantee deposits in banks – meaning George Bailey doesn’t have to convince his neighbors to only take out what they need.

4. This isn’t about the stock market, it’s about money supply.

Our economy works because we deposit money at banks and take loans from banks. No farmer could afford the seed to plant a profitable crop, no tech startup could afford it’s rent or employees without loans. Don’t vilify banks. They allow local businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive.

The Federal Reserve is acting to help those banks keep making loans to those businesses, which is critical right now.

Should things be different? Sure there are changes that we could and probably should make. But before you call for those, make sure you have your facts straight.

Are we the next Venezuela?


noun, a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Acts 2:44-45 ESV

Should the community own or regulate the means of production?

Do you oppose slavery? How about child labor? Do you think there should be a minimum wage? Mandated paid time off for any purpose? Are equal employment and non-discrimination laws justified?

If yes to any of these, you support community regulation of production – socialism.

Should the community own or regulate the means of distribution?

Should emergency rooms be able to refuse patients who they think won’t be able to pay? Should all roads be converted to toll roads? Should Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and SNAP all be shut down?

If yes to all of these, congratulations, you are a truly committed capitalist.

Should the community own or regulate the means of exchange?

Should the government be printing money? Should there be a central bank? Should the government punish counterfeiters?

If yes to any of these, you support socialism.

I’m being facetious!

I am vastly oversimplifying a complex set of arguments. But so is every post you see equating socialism to the disaster in Venezuela or capitalism to all material progress in today’s world.

Let’s get a couple facts straight:

  1. Private ownership of property has immense incentivizing power and has helped pull billions out of poverty. See China’s economic growth since the introduction of private markets in the 1970s.
  2. Private ownership of property can lead to immense misery and suffering. See any industrializing or developing country in the last couple centuries.
  3. Government can cause great harm. See Nazi Germany, Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China.
  4. Government can do great good. See modern public roads and emergency services.

Private or public, the quality of any organization depends on

  1. how well the people within it behave and
  2. how well the rules governing behavior are crafted.

Socialist and Capitalist are practically useless labels

If we implement a good set of regulations and abide by those regulations, then the balance between public and private efforts becomes less important. The moral issue doesn’t revolve around socialism vs. capitalism. It revolves around the behavior of people. One of the beauties of capitalism is that it can turn some degree of selfishness to the benefit of the community, but no system can survive a “greed is good” mentality. One of the beauties of socialism is that it encourages people to look outward and think of the good of the community (a topic Christ may have said one or two things about), but without proper incentives, people just don’t stick to it.

Dismissing someone’s argument because it is “socialist” or “late-stage capitalism” isn’t an argument. It provides no meaning or benefit to anyone. It signals your tribe and that’s it.

Let’s talk about real issues

Obviously, encouraging people to behave well is a challenge. What does behaving well look like? What are permissible ways to encourage such behavior?

There are obvious challenges to crafting good regulations, too. There is data to guide us in some things, but in others, it is too sparse to provide enough useful information. This is why macro economists – the ones focused on governmental regulation of the economy – so often disagree. There is enough noise in the data to support a wide range of interpretations or there is too little data to provide any firm interpretation at all, so they make it up based on their biases. In an ideal world, we would make some compromises to try things out and then be prepared to change course when things go wrong.

Clearly, there is still plenty to argue about. So let’s not waste time accusing anyone of trying to drive us into a Chavezistic Socialist hell. Let’s talk about real issues:

  • How can we improve our education so we can raise future generations successfully?
  • How can we structure our healthcare markets (because we’re all still talking about markets here, even if in some plans the government acts as the go-between for consumers and producers) to stop wasting resources for inferior results?
  • How can we better provide security for the times when the foibles of human nature meet market failures and people struggle to make ends meet?

If we come to the table and look for solutions to these (and other) issues, rather than calling each other names and throwing support behind demagogues, then the answer to the post title is no, we are not the next Venezuela.

Going Gardening to Guarantee Getting Goals

I won’t write long because I’m tired and my eyes are having trouble focusing. Today was a lot of hard work on little sleep. Yet I feel good. It’s interesting to me that being sore and tired feels this way. There are days when I’m sore and grumpy. Days when I’m tired and grumpy. I feel both, but I’m not grumpy.

One is the reason I’m sore and tired. I spent the day doing things for my family. The first half was preparing for and taking newborn photos. We cleaned, we got ready, we took photos. I think that made me feel good because it makes my wife happy. I’ll enjoy the pictures, too, but not quite as much as she will.

The second half was preparing the backyard for our spring vegetable garden. Maybe because I’m the grandson of a farmer, there’s something refreshing about working with dirt to grow something. Of course, in the midst of my busy life and the heat of the Texas summer, I often forget this. So, eventually the spring garden begins to languish. But I do think, even in the heat, I would be happier if I continued to get outside and work in the yard at least weekly. Maybe that will be my May or June goal.

And so, I should mention my monthly goals.

Like gardens in the Texas summer, my February goals began to languish. The no snacking goal was not very successful. I held strong for the first week and a half or so. Then I got worse and worse at keeping it. I also was bad at tracking all my goals. I wrote 30 minutes almost every day, but I missed a few here and there. And I continued to do some planning for my desk. Critical planning, it turns out, because if I’d followed the plans I had without this planning, the resulting desk would not have met our needs.

Writing: track it! Keep the momentum.

Monthly habit: I’ll start this month – 15 minutes minimum in garden or yard 5 days a week

Monthly project: extending pantry shelves, then buy and cut wood for the first part of the desk – the computer/drawer base (did I spend too much time making this 3D model? Probably, but it was fun).

The Pick-Pocket

Prompt: “Meet me at the clock tower at midnight.” said the note in the wallet of someone you just pickpocketed.

The target and the pick pocket both wore leather jackets. That’s why the pick-pocket chose this target. If he picked the pocket of someone with similar taste, it upped the chances of getting something he liked. It was a win-win. He got what he wanted and the target got…well, ok, it was just a win for him.

As the train rounded the corner, he jostled the man. He grabbed the wallet and it was in his own pocket without anyone even looking up. A minute later, the train arrived a tthe Seventh Avenue stop and the pick-pocket got off.

He walked up the stairs to cross to the exit. He did his best to remain patient. He didn’t pull the wallet out until he had left the station and walked a couple blocks. Once he had, he pulled it out and flipped through the contents. The wallet was nice. He could probably make a few bucks off it. But the contents were disappointing. A couple credit cards which would probably be useless as soon as the man realized his wallet was missing and reported it to the bank. The pick-pocket took photos of the cards – front for the number, back for the security code – and sent them to the fence anyway. Might get some use out of them for the next few minutes. Except there was no ID.

Who didn’t carry an ID these days? It was the first wallet that had no ID of any sort – not even a library card. He rifled through the few bills – just a few ones and fives, the credit cards, and a folded piece of paper.

The pick-pocket opened the piece of paper and read it. Then he looked nervously around. It read, “Meet me at the clock tower at midnight.” That wasn’t the unnerving part. That note could have been to anyone. No, the unnerving part was his name written at the bottom: Charles.


Charles Green, who went by Rawley for reasons no one could quite pin down, waited in a shadow opposite the square from the clock tower. He watched until the clock finished striking 12. He waited a few more minutes, but there was no one there.

When he got back to the apartment, he didn’t know how to feel. It was probably a crazy coincidence. He reached into his pocket to grab his key. He felt a piece of paper. He pulled it out.

“You can trust me.” He read. Then he pulled out his key, unlocked the door, and stepped inside.

“welcome home, son.” A voice said from the darkness. Rawley turned on the light and stared at the man, relaxing on Rawleys ouch. He was dressed entirely to ell or the apartment. His suit was more expensive than the apartment and all the furniture combined.

Rawley shook his head. “Trust you to do what? Use me up then drop me when I’m not longer useful for the job?”

The man raised an eyebrow and spread his hands. “I did not ask for your trust. I am here to offer you a job, though. While we must find an appropriate level of cooperation so we can both benefit, I understand that trust is not truly possible among thieves.”

Rawley stuffed the paper in his pocket. “What job? How do you know who I am?”

“A sensitive job requiring the lightest hand in the city. You come highly recommended by several of my associates. It appears you have worked a variety of jobs.” The man had steepled his hands together as he spoke. He could not have looked more like a classic villain if he’d been placed in a Hallmark movie.

“Ok, what’s in it for me? And who would I be working with?” Rawley still stood by the door. The man stood and walked towards him. He reached into his pocket. Rawlry stared him in the eye without flinching.

The man pulled out a gun and aimed it at Rawley’s forehead. “I have in my pocket details of the plan. You need not accept. It will be dangerous and complicated. I only accept participants who are confident they can fulfill their part. Regardless of your decision, you will keep the money also in the envelope. But if I ever hear any detail of the plan anywhere but from my own peopl,…” He cocked the gun and trailed off.

“I understand,” Rawley said, trying not to blink. It worked until a drop of sweat fell into his eye.

“Good boy,” the man smiled and put away the gun. He pulled out an envelope and handed it to Rawley. “You can contact me at the Lamplight hotel’s dining room. Let me know by Thursday morning.”

He walked up to Rawley. Rawley looked up at his face. “What’s your name?”

“Mr. Drexel.” He looked at Rawley expectantly. The pick-pocket stepped out of the way and Mr. Drexel opened the door. He paused halfway out the door and said, “Whoever asked for your trust, don’t. It’s not wise to trust.” Then he shut the door.


The next night Rawley stood at the door of the clock tower just as it began to strike midnight. He no longer hid in the shadows. That was clearly ineffective. He didn’t know if anyone would show. Maybe last night had been his only chance. But he’d spent all day thinking about it.

He had no idea what this person wanted, but he did know what they were capable of. They knew he was going to pick that pocket on the train. They were able to slip something into his pocket while he was alone and alert. Whoever it was, they were very, very good. If they wanted to harm Rawley, they would have done so.

So, he waited in full view, wondering what would happen.

“You should take the job with Mr. Drexel,” a voice beside him said. He turned, startled.

“I…what job?” Rawley asked, remembering at the last second that he should be trying to hide that.

“It’s good money,” the man beside Rawley said. He wore a leather jacket and a hat, pulled down low to cover his face. “Besides, he’ll probably kill you if you don’t take it.”

“Who is Mr. Drexel?” Rawley responded, hoping it sounded casual enough. This wasn’t the sort of covering up he was used to doing.

“I won’t force you to compromise yourself. Just consider what I said.”

For a moment there was silence. Rawley could hear the ticking of the giant clock far above. A siren wailed in the distance.

Rawley broke the silence first. “What do you want?”

“It’s not what I want, it’s what do you need to know.” The man turned toward Rawley. Rawley tried to look at his face, but it was covered in enough shadow that he couldn’t make details out. He found himself wishing he’d studied him a little more on the train. The leather certainly smelled the same, though.

“Fine, what do I need to know?”

The man’s shadowed face continued to gaze at Rawley. Rawley stared back, trying to make out something from the shadow.

The pick-pocket looked away first.

“Ok,” he said, “I guess…how did you do it?”

He chuckled. “I’ve been watching you. You’re good, but I’ve been around longer. I could tell how you chose your mark. Looking for someone worth something, but not too much. Someone who was aloof enough. Getting in front of you and acting was easy.”

Rawley shook his head. “But how do you know my name?”

“I’ve known you for a long time, Charles. Longer than almost anyone else.”

Rawley looked at him and narrowed his eyes. “What are you saying?”

“It’s me Charles. It’s Dad. I came home.” He pulled back his hood and Rawley got a good look at his face. Not just the side, like on the train. He saw it then. He didn’t have any photos of his dad, but he could see the resemblance. The same jawline, the same nose.

Those features blurred as Rawley’s eyes watered.

Then he punched the man in the face.

Gideon Michael


noun | Gid·​e·​on | \ ˈgi-dē-ən \ | From the Hebrew verb גדע (gada’), to hew down or cut off.

The Hebrew people were in a crisis. The nomadic Midianites were destroying their crops and driving them into hiding places in caves and mountains. In the midst of this turmoil, Gideon, son of Joash, was working in his fields. A man appeared under a tree and told Gideon he would deliver Israel. Gideon asked how he, the least in a weak family, could lead Israel. The messenger assured Gideon he was chosen by God.

Through faith in God’s word, Gideon helped turn the hearts of the people back to the God who had delivered them from Egypt. He then defeated the Midianite horde with only 300 warriors. When he angered the Ephraimites, he calmed them by speaking of how much greater they were than him. When offered rule of the people, Gideon turned it down, saying God was king.

Remember Gideon’s faith. Remember his courage. Remember his humility.


noun | Mi·​chael | \ ˈmī-kəl  \ | From the Hebrew words (1) מי (mi), “who?”, (2) כ (ke), “like”, and (3) the word אל (‘el), God.

Michael is your compassionate, patient, and kind grandfather.

When your uncle David had a difficult time as a college student, your grandfather took the time to travel to Utah to bring David home – a sacrifice of time he has repeated whenever any of his children or grandchildren has needed him.

When circumstances resulted in a career change late in life, he had numerous options available to him. The path he chose was to teach teenagers math – showing a level of compassion and patience I may never understand. I hope to be more like him someday, ideally before I have teenagers in my own home.

And, important in your home full of women, your grandfather taught me how to respect women. He has always made decisions with your grandmother on equal terms. He gave equal time and attention to his sons and daughters. He encouraged all of us to succeed in our chosen paths – both in careers and in family life. He exercised his priesthood authority, but never with unrighteous dominion. It was always with persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned.

Remember your grandfather’s compassion, patience, and kindness.

There are other Gideon’s and Michael’s I could speak about if I had time. I hope you discover them and their stories throughout your life.