Back to the “blocking and tackling” of being a prepper in the COVID world. But, a word first about how humans  generally fall into three categories of “time perception” because it really matters. 

An understanding of how people hear and how people speak (and therefore think and act) reveals much useful information.  From the top:

You’ve met people who are “Backward-Oriented.”  People who play songs from long ago, preferring “oldies” to tracking along with contemporary hit music. Not too many people are stuck in the past like this; perhaps only 20% of the country.  They will walk the “old wagon ruts” because it’s what they do.

Most are  “Now People.”  They go along with whatever the prevailing social mood is, climbing onboard with popular “causes” and they stay up (to some degree) with whatever is the Top-40 on radio.  In the “Now” these people are probably the middle 60 percent of the country.  Creatures of habit easy to manage.

Then there are Tomorrow People:  “Living in the Future” sorts. the kind attracted to UrbanSurvival.  If there’s one thing people come to this website for, it’s because both myself and most readers “Live 90-days in the Future.”  If there are ruts from the past, we avoid them.  If there is a habit, it’s challenged.  Often.

Tomorrow People as a group tend to be higher IQ, tend to look at History a lot deeper.  And as for music? Can you say “heavily mood-driven” and “best of class” audiophiles who range from Mozart to Marley and from Alternative to Zydeco?

Seeing 90-Days Out: Personal Trajectories

Future People are continually “modeling” what the next day, month, and years, will be.  Their mental dialog is a non-stop stream of “If this happens, then I need to be ready to…”  OR, “If that happens, I’ll need to change-up and….”

With COVID likely to break through a million cases globally before the weekend’s out, and coming to 50,000 global dead in short-order, the response of most Urban readers is to look at current data, do their own future projections, and then jump right into contingency planning and actions to address potential outcomes.

For them, The Future “cocktail napkin’s” sketches out like this:

This is how every morning since January has played out in my head.

With this Futuring Schema, I go through the exercise every morning and try to answer the question “What perspective do I have that may help people?”  What news should be highlighted and most-impacting of trajectories?

This is one of the major templates that guides our outlook.  The other is the “Colorado River Paradigm.”

The “Colorado River Paradigm” / Supply Chain Failure Model

I wrote this up in a column Sunday, but I failed to give you the “cocktail napkin” visual.  Let me fix that.

What you see below is how the supply chain used to work which was the Mississippi river model.  Before JIT and Just In Time Inventory, JITI) we had a deep supply channel (Mississippi) model that was far more robust than today’s:

In the current supply chain (where “deep distribution” has been killed because “inventory doesn’t pay interest”) is a single-point of failure waiting to happen:  The Mississippi model’s virtue was availability of a lot of product and that reduced the tendency sense/need to hoard.

PREPPING IS A RESULT OF JIT/JITI…are we the only ones to “get that?”

The problem with the “Colorado River” paradigm is that while it optimizes the financialization of the supply channel, it does so at the extreme cost of removing “peak capacity” and thereby reduces global resilience.

The Headwaters Problem

Concurrent with the change in the channel depth profile, and resultant peak capacity limits,  we (stupidly) allowed something else to happen in the furtherance of runaway financializations:  The “headwaters” of the supply channels moved to least-cost labotr countries.

Not only did the channel profile get narrower, but the river got longer…thousands of miles longer.

Which gets us to inspecting the toilet paper shortages more closely.  Since in 1960, virutally all of the U.S. toilet paper came from paper-making facilities in the U.S. and Canada.

That hasn’t changed.  Which is really good news: Because as long as the trucks are rolling and rail stock is in motion in the U.S. and Canada, the odds are very good that the current round of hoarding – which some claim was started as a social media meme launch by some teenager out in Hawaii – will pass in a while.  Except, of course, in Hawaii which doesn’t (so far as we know) make any toilet paper and they were late to the quarantine party.

There are hundreds of product “headwaters” that have gone to Asia and as these “supply chain rivers” go, the more distance from the end-user to source, the more dicey the channel becomes.  So, by looking at what the U.S. imported from China, 2018 figures believed to be accurate, our “soft under-belly” looks like this:

  • Electrical machinery ($152 billion),
  • Machinery ($117 billion),
  • Furniture and bedding ($35 billion),
  • Toys and sports equipment ($27 billion), and
  • Plastics ($19 billion)

Since Elaine and I try to operate our life out here in the Outback on a little more rigorously rational basis than “digital mob memery” of “big city delusions” we’ve not only been 20+ year preppers, but consider what we invested in recently:

  • We have “topped-off” our consumer electronics because ocean trade is likely to be impacted somewhere along the line.  Could be anywhere from the factories in Asia to the ports there, the ports here, tariff changes, to longshoring to trucking, to warehousing…well, you get the idea.
  • Machinery in general.  We have told you for years one of the best investments you can make in “forward survival” is in Chinese made machinery.  Witness today Ure being right.  There’s a 9X20 metal lathe, a modest vertical milling machine, assorted welding gear, plasma machine,and a sheet metal box and pan brake.
  • Ready to Make on Site:  There’s also a recent addition of 3D printers (and lots of filament) not to mention multiple sharpening machines for everything from knives to circular saws.  This because a rebuilding society doesn’t waste like we used to.  Anyone else remember the Foley-Belsaw Sharpening Shops?  I’ve got their book now.. Plentiful in the 1950’s in the still semi-rural America.
  • Furniture, did you say?  We’ve picked up courses on upholstery.  And for wood frames?  A new (made in China) mortising machine will make solid joinery into the future.  Powered by our 2007-2008 investment in solar independence.
  • Plastics…well, can’t hurt have that assortment of PLA and ABS filament and downloaded .STL files of some prepping items, now, can it?

How much food is imported from China?

Here’s a chart prepared by Su Ye of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture a couple of years back:  Look at the yellow highlights for hints as to what we’ve been “investing” in:

Don’t Focus Soley on China

Looking ahead for the U.S. supply chain, I think the right view is the global view and that will be driven by disease.  Your hint to “get ready” should have been the closing of the US-Canada border.  Few people, though, read headlines and “connect the dots.”

Now, Back to Trajectories

Best case is lowest probability.  Back to work by Easter has failed. For all the good-efforts of government and medicine, the odds of the virus petering out in the very short term seem to us quite low.  That’s reflected in our trajectory at the top of this page.

High liklihood – and this is a personal assessment only, not based on a numberically supported study – I figure we will be “in the thick of it” until about early June…perhaps to July.  That looks like the LZ.

Medium:  However, as more spot shortages occur, or if there is further disruption to supplies, then our “Medium” case rolls out into mid to late summer.  That might entail a 30-day shut-in period, but a follow-on period where episodic shut-ins (in “hot spots”) would continue, along with supply chain resupply issues into early fall.

Medium-Low:  The next level up – the medium-low – profile would be a “harder and longer” series of shut-ins with proportionately more supply chain damage and even slower recovery.

Above this is a “dashed line.”  This is one we don’t  like to think about, but it’s one that strategic planning demands:  Back to the early 1920’s.  What if things get worse.  As in much, much, worse.  Or, if there’s a short downturn and we get a recovery in early summer now, but then Wave 2 comes back with a vengeance?

Doom Porn Blinders

A couple of readers have suggested along the lines of “knock off the Doom Porn” about the disease.  Obviously, we don’t look at it this way at all.

The number of cases we projected in our earliest “doom porn” – for those dumb enough to call it that – was not bad and miles better than Federal estimates of progression which have been broad and unspecific as to be useless.

On the other hand, when we ran our projections almost two weeks ago, and shared them here, we called 543,026 for March 29.  The ACTUAL was 755,591.

WE WERE 39% LOW.  Only an idiot would label that doom porn.  A more accurate label was it was “very effing useful.”  There were no competing forecasts this close that I’m aware of in the timeframe.

Remedial Math Class

If you aren’t clear on how to use our past forecasts and compare them with present data, here’s all you need to know in three simple axioms because I use a simple, 5-day averaged linear projection:

  • If the current data is HIGHER than my forecast (for 3-days) then the virus is still accelerating. 
  • If the current dats is ABOUT at my forecast (again, for 3-days) then the virus has stablized in the growth rate.
  • If the current data is BELOW my forecast (3-day rule) then the virus spread is slowing.

There’s a hidden reason for my relying on simple 5-day linear projections.

It’s simply this:  You will see that I include both the “case factor” and the “death factor” (along with mortality rate) in my projections.

When the forecast and the actual are nearly the same, that’s about as good an esatimate of the virus growth rate as you will ever find, for a given level of public containment and public health countermeasures.

We don’t do “doom porn.”  We do this other thing:

Management Science

This is what our forecast looked like on stable afternoon data Monday:


And potential global deaths?

Of these, 1/25th would be U.S. deaths (3.24-million) if the distribution is even world-wide.  I don’t think it will be that bad, but it all depends on uniforming of shut-ins, how well countermeasures work, and on how many people can be helped by anti-malarial drugs.

To reiterate Monday, though, I hope Dr. Fauci is right on 200,000 dead tops.

The data argues he won’t be.

Back in a second with Housing data…

Write when you get rich,