Coronavrius In California: What's Normal Anyway and Update On Life

Bike ride through the city.  We did that today.  The ride was just like any I've had as far back as I can remember.  The only difference is that there are way less cars than before.  And the remaining cars on the streets are driving so fast I'm considering getting a camera mount for my helmet so I can record and report them.

It's been almost two weeks since the state and large cities like Los Angeles declare self-lock down and ordered temporary closures of nonessential businesses and activities and, on Friday, closed beaches, parks, and trials after thousands did not take the order and social distancing seriously and took to public places in large numbers.

It's a little different this Saturday compared to last weekend.  People are still going out but there is a feeling in the air that more people are taking the coronavirus pandemic, which started in Wuhan, Chia in early December (possibly late November) but was not reported by Beijing until January.  After all, it's been a week and the number of cases reported in the United States continue to increase out of control as more people are tested and hospitals become overwhelmed with patients suffer from more serious ailments.

This week, I started working from home.  In terms of productivity, I have to say that it's gone up, much to my surprise.  And without having to commute, I have time "after work" for a walk with my wife.  And as with the bike ride, social distancing is observed by everyone as far as I can tell.  What I found particularly was how neighbors who normally would be driving or going somewhere else are also walking and share friendly acknowledgements via a wave, a nod, or a "hello".

We still go out to get food.  Even before the order to stay at home, my wife and I cooked and ate mostly at home.  We go out on an average of one and a half times.  And if you made any trips to the market in the last few weeks, you'll noticed taped markings that are six feet apart on the ground with a friendly market employee or two keeping people reminding customers to practice social distancing.

And here are a few new normals during an pandemic:

  • Less driving means I'm saving on gas.  And gas has been dropping even before the number of cases exploded in the US due to Russia's attempt to crush the US oil industry and breaking from OPEC.
  • Less driving also means the air is nice throughout most of the day.  I mean, wow, I can see the mountains clearly for days now.  And it helped that we have been getting rain.
  • I had started stocking up months ago because we live in earthquake country.  So I got lucky.  I think people will continue to stock up even after the pandemic is over.  I've learned and I believe millions of other families have as well.
  • Walking.  I've always enjoy it.  Jogging as well.  And I think more people have rediscovered the joy of walking.  And perhaps once restaurants and malls reopen and public areas become more assessable, walking could remain more common.
One last thing.  Sure, some stuff are still unavailable at the supermarkets.  But I would say 90% of what need for day to day survival as available.  You might not be able to find your favorite brand of glass bottled organic 2% milk but if you are willing to walk to another store a mile away, you'll find organic milk available, in a carton.  And while cheap store branded beans are no longer available, more expensive brands are available.  It all depends on what you're looking for and if you are willing to pay an extra buck for it. 

Okay, really one more thing.  I promise.  The local news are good source to get information.  But some of the anchors and reporters are not helping with comments like "it's going to be a beautiful day tomorrow. Just look at the gorgeous view of the beach you are not allowed to go to behind me".  Seriously, right?

Apple Watch 3: 2.5 Years Later, Time for Apple Watch 6 (Maybe)

I skipped the Apple Watch 4 and 5 and plowed through with my Apple Watch 3.  It'll be three years this September 22nd and I can't wait to see what new features the Apple Watch 6 will pack when it is released this year.  Of course, with what's going on with the coronavirus pandemic here in the US and the rest of the world, there is no guarantee that Apple will be release products on the annual schedule that we have come to expect.

And while I think I can hang for another six months, I'm not sure my Apple Watch 3 can as the battery life has diminished greatly in the last month.  I reset it today in hopes that the reset could fix it.  And if it doesn't, well, I'll have to figure out how to work around a shorter battery life until later this fall.  It is not as if the Apple stores are open for me to take my watch in for a battery replacement.

But even if I eventually have the chance to take my three in for a battery replacement and that the Apple Watch 6 does not impress me, I can see myself with the three for another year and wait for the Apple Watch 7.

ECG is nice which came with Apple Watch 4 and the always on screen on the Apple Watch 5 is nice, none of those two main features are enough for me upgrade each of the last two years.  Rumored features, oxygen blood level monitor, sleep monitor, and faster chip, are all nice but hardly worth upgrades if you've got the four or five.  It could be enough to upgrade for someone like me.  Still, those features are nice but not necessary.  And it's been suggested that the Apple Watch can monitor oxygen level in the blood as far back as 2015.

I can be sold on a new Apple Watch if the next one really offers a much longer battery life.  If anyone read my past posts, you'll know that having long battery life is something I've been asking for year after year.

At it's peak, the three offers me enough to get me through the day.  And I've got a charger a home, work, and in my car and I charge my watch whenever I get a chance.  But I'm not talking about going from twenty hours to thirty or even forty-eight hours.  I'm walking about 3-5 days long.  I know, I know.  That's wishful thinking.  Fine, be that as it may, it certainly is something Apple is working on.

People have mentioned a blood pressure monitor in the Apple Watch.  Now, that could be something I would jump on immediately.  I'm approaching that age in my life that I should be worrying about my blood pressure.  And hypertension is something I should worry about given that it is common in my family.  But so far so good.

I don't know when the pandemic in California is going to let up so Apple is comfortable to reopening its stores.  When it does and I am able to get my battery replaced (should the reset not work - I don't know yet since I just did it today), I will be quite content with my three because it'll feel like a new watch for me.  And should the Apple Watch 6 not meet my threshold for an upgrade, I'll still be happy to keep my Apple Watch 3 on my wrist for another year.

One thing is for sure when I do upgrade - I'll be going for the cellular version.

Corona Virus and China: Please Give Us Good Lies So We Sleep Better At Night and the Stock Market Will Keep Going Up

The Take-Away:  We are comfortable with China's Lies and that's not good at all.

Bloomberg asked a very good question about why the rash of warnings from companies over the continuing outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in China did not rattle the stock market as it did today with the major indices dropping more than 3%.  Here is why:  for years, China has trained everyone to "believe" their always on target economic numbers when just about everyone and their grandmother knows it's fudged.  And now, we are getting more "transparent" daily numbers of new virus infections out of China, people seem willing to believe that as long as it shows a peak and then a steady downward trend so that it reassures the financial markets that things are starting to get back to normal.  

Of course, no one truly believes that deep in their hearts.  Markets are willing to believe the lies because it allows investors to go forth with certainty even if it is not reality-based.  And it's why when Apple announced that not only were they going to miss their $62-$67 billion second quarter numbers, they have no idea when things will return to normal, the market barely blinked.  And after that, even more companies came out with their own warnings.  What happened?  Record highs because China's numbers were reassuring.

Then someone had to go and start reporting real numbers.  Italy and South Korea began reporting explosive new number of cases.  Not only was the virus creating a new hotspot in Asia, the COVID-19 has gained a strong foothold in the EU. 

And once real numbers are being reported, the market really is now beginning to panic.  No longer could they believe in the fake numbers from WHO and Beijing.  Reality has a way of screwing things up.  The fantastically rosy mirage out of China just shattered by when Italy began isolating towns and eerie photos of empty streets in South Korea began showing up on Twitter.  Now imagine what was really going on in China since the lunar new year with its 1.4 billion citizens.

While financial analysts and investors are largely to blame, the news media are also culprits with their unwillingness to ask the tough questions or report on facts that people would rather not hear about.  The problem is that there is simply no accountability as well.  

Note:  Iran also reported an outbreak.  Due to the nature of its government, their numbers are more believable than China's but still needed to be taken with a scoopful of salt.

Note 2:  We are all hoping that everyone in China will come through this okay.  Our issues are with its government and supporters, not with the people.

With The Flashlight App on Most Phones, Is Anyone Buying Flashlights Anymore?

Everyone is talking about what the Apple Watch replacing the traditional watches and decimating the market.  But that has been happening long before the Apple Watch came along.   I'm not sure what is the percentage of the human population that wear watches but it is not a reach to suggest that that number dropped since the availability of the iPhone and other smart phones.

What I am wondering about is how the smartphone has affected the flashlight market.  I thought of this when I went on a recent camping trip.  I had all the gears that I needed including flashlights for the strolls on the paths that had no lights. 

I brought a lot a couple of lanterns and two flashlights with 1000 lumens each.  I ended up not using one of them because I had not thought to when I left the camp site which was well lit by a fire and half a dozen lanterns brought by my family and friends.

With my wife using one of the flashlights, I had only my phone and so I turned it on to illuminate the path in front of us to make sure we don't trip or stepped into anything that I was going to regret while she swept the beam from the flashlight around us.

My phone performed admirably.  It was adequate for the near darkness.  We could not see anything in front of us and the only source of light were cabins across the lake and everything else was dark on our side.

Had we only used our phones, it would have been fine.  Maybe a bit more scary but I am sure there was no bears around despite the signs.  But, hey, we're city folks so we are not used to being in that environment.

So I wondered if what we had was good enough for a weekend camping trip, is anyone really buying flashlights anymore?  Unless you have a specific need for a flashlight or lantern, I just don't see it.

It depends on the specific needs.  If you need one that is more durable because of work, definitely. A handyman is going to need more than a phone.  Ergonomically, a tube shaped flashlight works better than a phone for most types of jobs.  And if you need more light than the light on a camera can provide, definitely.

When we go for walks at night in the neighborhood, the phone light was all that we needed.  I have a couple of small flashlights about 50 lumens sitting by the door and I can't remember when was the last time I used them.

For me, the most important tech I needed were the battery packs with USB ports to charge our phones.  I know what some of you may be thinking.  I should have left the tech at home.  Sorry, city folks here.  Ain't gonna happen.  Mostly I needed to check emails but that's about it.  I ignored everything else that was coming through.  Sort of a compromise.

So, are you still buying flashlights for your home needs? And if not, is it because the light on your phone is all you need?

My Next Apple Watch Will Have Cellular Data

I’m pretty happy with my Apple Watch 3. This came after Apple Watch and Apple Watch 2. I don’t have the Apple Watch 4 because I did not think Apple Watch 4 was enough of a leap over the previous one. Don't get me wrong. Apple Watch 4 is fantastic and if I was on the Apple Watch 2, I would not hesitate to upgrade to Apple Watch 4. It’s just that having ECG wasn’t enough of an improvement for me. And the battery life is something Apple has a lot of work to do. 

Eventually, I will need to upgrade. More correctly, I will want to upgrade. The reason is that I can’t wait to go completely Dick Tracy and rely more on my Apple Watch and leave my iPhone at home for times when I don’t absolutely need it.

What got me thinking that I will definitely have to have cellular wires service for my next Apple Watch has to do with the fact that there is now an App Store that users can access directly on the watch.

It shows that Apple is finally at the point where it is comfortable for users to be completely untethered to the iPhone. Once we can get over-the-air update for Watch OS directly onto the watch, there goes the biggest reason for Apple to require the users to have an iPhone.

Furthermore, this will allow Apple and developers to further innovate and come up with new ways for wrist based computing since not everyone will have an iPhone.

But the fact remains that the Apple Watch will need the iPhone in the forseeable future.  My uneducated guess is that the Apple Watch 5 will require users to have an iPhone but much less so.  And whether I get the Apple Watch 5 will largely depend on what kind of new unique features it will have that I definitely find myself in need of.  Otherwise, I am still perfectly happy with my current watch and can wait a bit longer. 

I think this is also the case for most users.  For potential Apple Watch buyers, you cannot go wrong with what Apple has on the market if you're not willing to wait the summer out until Apple releases the next one. 

Owners of the Apple Watch 3, 4, and 5 will experience a vastly different computing and mobile experience than previous generations and watches on other platforms.  Apple has found itself ina position where no one else can provide the same experience in the watch market.  I'm very excited to see where Apple takes the watch. 

For those reasons, I am certain the next Apple Watch that anyone will own should have the LTE connection.  I am going to go further and suggest that Apple discontinue the WiFi only version once it is able to completely free it from the iPhone.