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    Published on: November 17, 2020

    This weekly series of Retail Tomorrow podcasts features Sterling Hawkins, co-CEO and co-founder of CART-The Center for Advancing Retail & Technology, and MNB "Content Guy" Kevin Coupe teaming up to speculate, prognosticate, and formulate visions of what tomorrow's retail landscape will look like post-coronavirus.

    This week's guest is Shekar Raman, CEO and co-founder of Birdzi, a grocery retail AI solutions company that he says was inspired by an idea he got from his 11-year-old daughter.  That idea has morphed into a data-driven technology leveraging AI and machine learning to help retailers and brands elevate the customer experience.   Shekar lays out the functionality of the program to Sterling and Kevin, as well as describing the degree to which the technology can get into shoppers' heads to create a more relevant shopping trip;  Shekar also describes how his early work on the Human Genome Project has played into his work for the retail industry.

    You can listen to the podcast here…


    …or on The Retail Tomorrow website, iTunes or Google Play.

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    The Wall Street Journal writes that "as the pandemic wreaks havoc on our mental and physical health, it is also quietly reshaping how Americans will face retirement and old age in the years to come."  Some of the developments are new, and some are just accelerations of trends that were taking place anyway.  But KC suggests that they set the agenda for how people of a certain age will live the rest of their lives in a new reality, just as it establishes ground rules for how businesses will exist in their new reality.

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Verge reports this morning that Zoom is lifting its usual 40-minute limit on free video chats this Thanksgiving, "to make it easier to spend time with friends and family virtually on the US holiday. Given spikes in COVID-19 cases nationwide and various new and existing restrictions on interstate travel, this year’s Thanksgiving will be an unprecedented affair likely involving a mix of in-person and virtual hangouts using videoconferencing software like Zoom."

    This is a very savvy move by Zoom, which would like to be the default service for such conversations, whether for personal or business purposes.

    But it also offers retailers that are marketing their fresh and prepared foods for the holidays an opportunity to use the moment to build their own relevance.  Knowing that people may be spending a lot of time online this Thanksgiving - laptops may be welcome at the dining room table for the first time - retailers ought to be carving up their offerings into packages and segments that can be easily adapted to the moment … and maybe even offering the ability to send some products to the loved ones on the other end of the Zoom calls.

    Just a thought.  Call it a  Zoom-portunity.

    Could be an Eye-Opener.

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    Fox Business reports that "Instacart has picked Goldman Sachs Group Inc to lead its initial public offering, which could come early next year and value the U.S. grocery delivery app at around $30 billion."

    The story notes that "Instacart was valued at $17.7 billion last month, when it raised $200 million in a private fundraising round. Were the IPO to push Instacart's valuation to close to $30 billion, it would underscore the rapid growth of its business as more consumers turn to it to shop for groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic …  Instacart's order volumes have surged as much as 500% this year, as consumers shopped online during the coronavirus outbreak."

    KC's View:

    It is beyond my understanding how a business valued at $17.5 billion last month could be worth almost twice that in two months … though I suppose this proposed  valuation is a measure not just of past success but of future ambitions.  It also is a measure of the degree to which Instacart has become a dominant brand name … which would still make me nervous if I were a retailer with a brand being subsumed.  Very, very nervous.

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    Amazon this morning announced two new pharmacy offerings that it said would  "help customers conveniently purchase their prescription medications. Amazon Pharmacy, a new store on Amazon, allows customers to complete an entire pharmacy transaction on their desktop or mobile device through the Amazon App. Using a secure pharmacy profile, customers can add their insurance information, manage prescriptions, and choose payment options before checking out. Prime members receive unlimited, free two-day delivery on orders from Amazon Pharmacy included with their membership."

    Also this morning, Amazon announced that "Prime members can access savings on medications at Amazon Pharmacy when paying without insurance, as well as at over 50,000 other participating pharmacies nationwide. The Amazon Prime prescription savings benefit saves members up to 80% off generic and 40% off brand name medications when paying without insurance. Prime members will have access to their prescription savings at checkout on Amazon Pharmacy."

    KC's View:

    If the past eight months have taught us anything, it is that a commitment to the healthcare sector is a very real way to be relevant and resonant.  Since Amazon's goal is to make its products and services completely integrated into its customers lives, this is just another piece of the puzzle.

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Rainbow Grocery there, in the Mission District, " is experimenting with a new tactic to bring customers inside: reservations.

    "The Mission District store first offered the after-hours service last Saturday, capping it at 30 to 35 customers, who probably wanted a quieter, less hectic, and possibly safer experience, according to Cody Frost, Rainbow’s marketing coordinator.  The event was successful, and the store is opening again on Saturday after normal business hours, to customers who sign up for reservations on its website. The hour-long slots start at 9 p.m., and more are scheduled from Nov. 21 to 25, though they are quickly filling up. The store is considering doing the same in December as the end-of-year holidays approach."

    KC's View:

    Target also is experimenting with a reservation system, and I'm intrigued by the idea.

    When I wrote about Target's test, I wondered if this is something that could be adapted by other retailers.  For example, retailers that are concerned about being overwhelmed by holiday crowds could actually set aside early morning or late night hours as reservations-only periods, and maybe even could make those times available only to best customers (as defined by their loyalty marketing system).

    This is one of those areas in which using data smartly could make a real difference - not just engendering loyalty, but showing loyalty to best customers.

    This is a big opportunity, I think, and certainly worth a test.

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    From the Financial Times this morning:

    "Retailers and suppliers in the US are facing a blizzard of lawsuits and enforcement actions over accusations of profiteering as industry data show average prices of a range of household goods have risen sharply during the pandemic. Authorities across the country have brought hundreds of actions over alleged breaches of 'price gouging' rules on products including face masks, disinfectant and toilet paper.

    "In New York City alone, the department of consumer and worker protection said that since March, it had put about 3,000 retail outlets on notice over gouging law violations. Lawyers are predicting more legal actions as winter approaches and a resurgence of infections prompts authorities to reimpose social restrictions, fuelling demand for essential goods."

    The story notes that "gouging" can be relative, based on local standards:  "In New York and California, gouging rules prohibit increases of more than 10 per cent for many consumer goods and services. In other jurisdictions the threshold is higher: in Alabama it is 25 per cent. Several states, including Texas, bar 'excessive' price rises without specifying a particular level. But businesses argue in their defence that their own costs have risen."

    KC's View:

    The community standards for what comprises gouging may be different, but I would hope that the states are consumer-oriented enough to not just prosecute those companies that are found to have violated the law, but also make their identities very, very public.  Consumers who believe that retailers advocate for their best interests need toi be disabused of that notion when it is demonstrably untrue.

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that "mall operators, faced with a sharp downturn in foot traffic, are looking into the viability of converting empty commercial space into mini-fulfillment centers for their remaining retail tenants, technology vendors and analysts say."

    Some context from the Journal story:

    "The pandemic has dealt a crushing blow to large mixed-retail malls, which were already struggling before the crisis. Many were declared nonessential businesses and closed by local governments as early as March. At a handful of malls that reopened in Georgia, Texas and other states in early May, foot traffic was down an average of 83% compared with the same period last year, according to Placer.ai, a research firm that uses cellphone data to track consumer behavior.

    "Two midsize mall owners, CBL & Associates Properties Inc. and Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month. Many large stores that lease retail space in malls have also filed for bankruptcy in recent months, including Neiman Marcus Group and J.C. Penney Co."

    And, the story says, "Failed malls have been an attractive target for Amazon.com Inc., FedEx Corp. and DHL International GmbH, looking for strategic distribution hubs near main highways and residential areas. The sites are typically used to store products or packages ahead of last-mile deliveries to customers."

    KC's View:

    Troubled mall companies already have started investing in faltering retailers - like when Simon Property Group invested in Brooks Brothers - as a way of keeping those retailers in business.  This keeps those stores open in their shopping centers, which also can prevent the domino effect of other retailers closing down.

    I've long wondered about the intelligence of this approach.  Does "troubled" plus "faltering" equal "success"?  Not in my experience.

    Turning empty stores into micro-fulfillment centers for other mall tenants, not to mention the likes of Amazon and FedEx, may be the next best option … until, of course, they decide to convert their real estate into senior citizen housing, health care facilities, community colleges, and who knows what else.

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, there now have been 11,540,461 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 252,684 resulting deaths and 7,021,101 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 55,446,791 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,334,296 fatalities and 38,584,824 reported recoveries.  (Source.)


    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "The number of newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S. increased drastically from a day earlier, and the number of those hospitalized also rose, hitting another record … The number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations as of Monday …  jumped, to 73,014, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That number has stayed above 61,000 for the past week, hitting a record every day but one. Before Nov. 10, the U.S. hadn’t reported more than 60,000 hospitalizations in a day since the start of the pandemic.

    "The number of people with Covid-19 in intensive care units increased from a day earlier to 14,313, according to Covid Tracking’s data, a number not seen since late April, when the U.S. was seeing its first surge of cases.

    "At least 10 states logged record numbers of newly reported infections for Monday, including Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Connecticut and Vermont, according to Johns Hopkins data, and numerous others have hit records in the past few days."


    •  NBC News reports on a new report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association saying that "more than 1 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with Covid-19 … The new numbers also reflect the largest one-week increase in pediatric Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. Last week alone, nearly 112,000 children were diagnosed. Pediatricians believe the true number of children infected with the virus is much higher, because the illness is often mild in kids and may go undetected."

    Children may not suffer the same symptoms and severity of illness as adults, and they may not transmit the disease to the same degree.  But the fact that so many kids have it may speak to the lack of seriousness that their families are bringing to the situation.


    •  Politico reports that "California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered widespread closures of indoor operations as the state faces its fastest surge in cases since the Covid-19 pandemic began, pulling what he called the 'emergency brake' on 94 percent of residents.  Newsom said he was compelled to act by a case surge that is 'simply without precedent in California’s pandemic history'."

    The story notes that "California’s daily cases have doubled in the past 10 days … That has led Newsom to accelerate the stay-at-home process, ensuring 41 of California's 58 counties will have to shut churches, indoor dining and gyms until the state deems them safe for operation. That includes most of the state's heavily populated counties, including most of the San Francisco Bay Area that previously had forestalled the same coronavirus spread seen elsewhere."


    •  From the Washington Post:

    "Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a statewide mask mandate on Monday, months after dismissing such orders as 'feel-good' measures with little impact. Coronavirus infections in the state have doubled over the past month, and the number of hospitalized patients reached a new high on Monday."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "doctors who have been treating coronavirus patients from the pandemic’s earliest days in the U.S. said they are now better equipped to face a new rise in hospitalizations, with evidence on drugs that work to combat Covid-19 symptoms, research on treatments, and their own patient experiences through the months. The virus’s resurgence across the country is testing whether what they have learned so far will lead to shorter hospital stays and fewer deaths."


    •  CNBC reports that "Walmart beginning Saturday is resuming monitoring and counting the number of customers entering its stores, to make sure it doesn’t exceed capacity limits, as coronavirus cases surge at record rates across the country.

    "Dating back to April, Walmart has been restricting the number of people in its big-box stores to not exceed five customers per every roughly 1,000 square feet, or about 20% of a store’s capacity. Those levels can also vary based on local mandates, the company said.

    "For a period of time, however, the biggest retailer in the United States had stopped physically counting people as they came inside and left."

    The move, CNBC reports, "comes as America continues to push new Covid records. More than 68,500 are hospitalized with Covid-19 across the country, more than at any other point during the pandemic, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic."


    •  The Washington Post reports on how, in some markets where restrictions have been put in place to slow down the coronavirus pandemic, some businesses are fighting back.

    "Movie theaters in New York City are demanding the right to reopen," the Post writes.  "Restaurateurs in Massachusetts are trying to serve more customers at night. And top retailers are targeting store limits across the country, hoping to boost shopping — and profits — as the holidays approach.

    "Even as the coronavirus ravages the United States, a wide array of tourism, hospitality, restaurant and retail groups have fought to preserve their ability to operate anyway, seeking to stave off shutdowns and some other restrictions that public health experts see as essential for bringing the nation’s deadly contagion under control."

    The story points out that "the stalemate over federal coronavirus aid has fueled some of the resistance nationwide toward another round of coronavirus-related shutdowns. In Oregon, for example, a broad coalition representing local gyms, restaurants, hotels, wineries and other businesses pointed to the loss of enhanced federal unemployment and small business assistance as it urged Democratic Gov. Kate Brown against adopting 'any future business closures or curtailed operations'."

    However, "Brown on Friday imposed a two-week halt on everything from office buildings to zoos in an attempt to bring the state’s outbreak back under control."

    The story goes on:  "The arrival of the lucrative holiday season has added even more urgency to some of the lobbying efforts. More than half of Americans say they aren’t planning any holiday travel this year, according to a poll conducted by the U.S. Travel Association. More than a quarter of Americans say they expect to spend less on gifts over the coming weeks, according to a survey conducted by Gallup … The downturn threatens to deliver another blow to some retailers that have already experienced significant revenue shortfalls this year. The potential for additional sky-high losses appears to have emboldened the industry to look more skeptically — and fight more aggressively — against new or heightened restrictions viewed as onerous for some retailers."

    I am sympathetic.  These folks are looking for ways to stay in business.  I'm just not sure that they're well-served if their patrons end up sick.  Or dead.


    •  Fast Company reports on interviews that it conducted with scientists who reviewed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for how families should approach the Thanksgiving holidays - mostly by mitigating risks for in-person gatherings - and concluded that "these official guidelines are too lax in that they do not issue a sterner warning to cancel in-person Thanksgiving altogether."

    The reason for the lenient approach:  concerns that national Covid-19 fatigue would lead people to ignore any stricter suggestions for how to deal with the holidays, even if it means getting sick.

    There is some precedent for a tighter approach:   Fast Company writes that "Canada celebrated its Thanksgiving in early October. Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s calls to cancel in-person gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus, celebrations went on, and led to now-documented outbreaks. The experience of our northern neighbor, which has significantly lower COVID-19 cases, could serve as a warning for how Americans treat the event on November 26."


    •  From Axios:

    "Thanksgiving will be a big test for colleges with students on campus … Some schools, including the University of South Carolina, Syracuse University and Emory University, plan to end in-person instruction ahead of the holiday, while others are asking students not to go home … Health officials fear indoor gatherings and traveling will worsen the spread of COVID-19 nationwide. If students do go home, experts recommend self-isolation, coronavirus tests and flu shots."


    •  The Washington Post reports on how, despite a Washington State ban on weddings larger than 30 people, "a couple in rural Ritzville, Wash., held their own ceremony — and brought 10 times that number of revelers to their party.

    "Health officials in Washington said Monday that more than 300 people attended the wedding, providing a case lesson in why the restrictions were originally put in place. Two separate outbreaks have now been fueled by at least 17 guests who have since tested positive for the virus, officials said - with more new cases from the event 'being added daily'."


    •  ESPN reports that "due to challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic, the entire 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament will be played in one location, the NCAA announced Monday."

    That location is likely to be Indianapolis, the story says, as negotiations continue.

    "The decision comes after NCAA officials met to consider a variety of contingency plans," ESPN writes.  "The move means that 13 sites across the country will no longer host a preliminary round of the NCAA tournament."

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    Profitero is out with a new study concluding that "Amazon is heading into the 'pandemic' 2020 holiday season as the online price leader, beating other major retailers on price by 15%, on average. Amazon was the most competitively priced retailer in 18 out of 21 major consumer product categories — tying Walmart.com for the lowest online prices for Beauty items and Chewy.com for Pet items."

    Other conclusions from the survey:

    •  "Retailers compete hardest with Amazon in Baby and Sports & Outdoor, where Amazon was found to be 6% less expensive than other retailers studied. Retailers are the least competitive on price with Amazon in Home Furniture, where Amazon was 35% less expensive, on average."

    •  "Amazon faces stiff competition from Walmart.com, which seconded Amazon in 15 of the 21 categories studied and was found to be only 4% more expensive than Amazon, on average. Walmart is matching prices with Amazon on Beauty items — an improvement from last year when Walmart was 8% more expensive than Amazon in the category."

    •  "Target puts profits, not low prices, in its bullseye: Among the 'Big Three' U.S. retailers (Amazon, Walmart, Target), Target is the least competitively priced, averaging 10% more expensive than Amazon. Most notably, Target was found to be 20% more expensive than Amazon on Food & Beverage items, a jump up from last year’s Price Wars study when Target was 12% more expensive than Amazon."

    •  "Overall, specialty retailers are not competing with Amazon on price. Best Buy was 13% more expensive than Amazon in Electronics, and Wayfair 37% more expensive in Home Furniture. Chewy is the exception, exactly matching prices with Amazon on Pet items."

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  Bloomberg reports that Target has "discontinued its subscription service model as shoppers increasingly look for more convenient and flexible delivery options."

    According to the story, "It’s quite a turn for subscriptions, which several years ago were seen as a boon for e-commerce. Getting shoppers locked into them created consistent revenue streams that impressed investors. The model proliferated from startups to legacy chains. But Target customers have moved on, lured by the ease and speed of same-day delivery and picking up online orders at the store, which can now be done without leaving your car."

    This surprises me, since it doesn't make sense that a person having a subscription to certain products wouldn't also be able to use same-day delivery and pickup services.  I know this, because I do - I have maybe a dozen subscriptions via Amazon's Subscribe & Save, but also order for same-day and next-day delivery via both Amazon and Whole Foods.

    It strikes me as far more likely that Target didn't do the work necessary to sell the service to consumers.  For example, I have a Target a few miles from me and I have absolutely no idea whether it offered subscriptions or not.  

    But that's okay with Amazon, I suspect … since Subscribe & Save has turned out to be an enormous - and dependable - part of its business.


    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Airbnb Inc. unveiled paperwork for its initial public offering on Monday, showing the home-sharing giant turned a profit in the third quarter after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to overhaul its business and shed costs.

    "The company’s revenue for the three months ended Sept. 30 fell 18% to $1.34 billion from the same period a year earlier, as the pandemic continued to hurt bookings. But deep cost cuts, combined with an uptick in revenue from previous quarters, still led it to post a profit of $219 million."

    The story goes on:  "Airbnb lost $697 million through the first nine months of the year, more than twice as much as it lost in the year-earlier period, underscoring the toll of the health crisis. Revenue dropped 32% over the nine-month period.

    "The home-sharing platform’s ability to resuscitate to profitability and proceed with an impending public offering show how unpredictable—and yet ultimately navigable—this year has proven for some companies. When the pandemic first gripped China and then the world, travel firms such as Airbnb faced a drastic drop in demand. But then customers, some newly able to work remotely, started turning to Airbnb over hotels as a way to escape from cities or take a manageable vacation."

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    •  Food & Wine reports that Mondelez-owned Nabisco plans to release gluten-free Oreos - both in regular and "Double Stuf" - early in 2021.

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    Regarding our report yesterday about the return of Tower Records, which went bankrupt a dozen or so years ago, as an online store, one MNB reader wrote:

    Hi Kevin.  For those of us who spent countless hours perusing vinyl at Tower Records (as I did on Sunset in Hollywood back in the early 80’s), watch the documentary about the company “All Things Must Pass, The Rise And Fall of Tower Records” (its on Amazon). From billion dollar company that went bankrupt 10 years later.  Quoting Tower’s founder, Russ Solomon: “As far as your CD collection - and our CD inventory, for that matter - it’s going to be around for a long, long time, believe me."

    I share your affection - I spent a fair amount of time there back in the mid-seventies, often combining it with a late night trip to Tommy's, on the corner of Rampart and Beverly, for a double-chili-cheeseburger.  Those were the days when traffic wasn't so bad, and gas probably was 75 cents per gallon.


    The famous Thanksgiving episode of "WKRP in Cincinnati" came up yesterday, prompting MNB reader Mike Freese to write:

    I have a wife, 4 kids and 8 grandkids. Every single one of them knows the phrase “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly”. The first time I saw that episode I laughed so hard I couldn’t breath and dang near passed out. Thanks for bringing back a great memory.


    Responding to a piece yesterday about DoorDash's IPO intentions and financials, one MNB reader wrote:

    My favorite DoorDash statement:

    "Excluding overhead expenses such as salaries and rent, DoorDash started turning a profit."

    Says it all.

    It does, doesn't it.


    On another subject, one MNB reader wrote:

    The media did a great job the past 4-5 days alerting the public that there could be shortages of some items in several categories for holiday items and for bath tissue, paper towels, and disinfectant items. I spent the past 3-4 days observing what happened to the shelves in several chain stores here in the Portland, OR market. The aforementioned categories were decimated with lots of out of stocks. Regardless what the CEO’s have been saying about plenty of product in the supply chain, even with sales limits, the shelves are still bare. The national electronic media still exacerbates the problem with their reporting on product shortages. How long will this issue last? My guess is several more months.

    I'm sticking with my earlier comment on this subject - don't blame the media for reporting an actual story.  This ain't fake news.


    We reported yesterday that in the latest of a series of divestitures, Walmart sold the majority of its ownership of Japan's Seiyu.  Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    In your opinion, would Walmart ever look to sell off, or spin-off, divisions of it’s US physical retail business?

    I cannot imagine.  But I can be educated on this point if anyone thinks this is a possibility.


    Responding to yesterday's note about Dustin Johnson winning the Masters, one MNB reader wrote:

    Not taking anything away from Dustin Johnson's record setting Masters score however it's the fall, the course was playing soft, and there were no crowds.  One interesting side note was the absence of bird sounds.  Typically in the spring you hear lots of birds during a Masters broadcast.  In November the silence was deafening.  And with 5 birdies in the last 6 holes my money is on Woods to win the Masters in a few short months, come April 2021.   And being a Woods fan I fortunately missed his rough patch on 12 Sunday and I don't plan to watch a replay.  I'm depressed enough as it is. 

    I love your optimism that the Masters will be played as usual in April 2021.  Though the positive news about vaccine development does have me feeling a little bit hopeful, too.


    Finally, regarding MNB's pandemic coverage, one MNB reader wrote:

    Fear mongering is the new news ... this pandemic yet real should not grind our lives to a halt ! This is not our first rodeo... We should be able to function and survive without ruining our jobs, relationships, travel & recreation, and everything else that makes life worthwhile. Politicians who believe that shutdowns are necessary and try and take away our freedoms need to be voted out of office. They obviously have a hidden agenda. We need to be able to live our lives and not have to hide in a closet!

    Well, it sort of is our first rodeo of this magnitude, unless of course you were around in 1918.

    Here's the deal, at least as I understand it.  Shutdowns largely are not necessary if adults behave like adults and wear masks, wash their hands frequently, and practice rigorous physical distancing.  The problem is when people say that to ask them to do such things is to infringe on their freedom and un-American.  Which, to my mind, is a crock.

    Mask mandates are not necessary if people wear them on their own, if people have the common decency - and yes, patriotism - to wear masks as a way of protecting other people.  You know, their families and friends and co-workers and neighbors and even people they don't know but who qualify as their fellow human beings.  Mask mandates are only made necessary when people are so selfish that they don't do the right thing on their own.

    This isn't always easy.  Sometimes it is inconvenient.  Sometimes it sort of hurts.  I have a son who lives in Chicago, and who planned to come home for Thanksgiving, but who decided it didn't make sense to go through two airports and a two-plus hour flight at a time when numbers are spiking all over (especially in Chicago), and when he might bring the disease home.  His mom and I are disappointed, of course, but we're also kind of proud of the fact that he made this decision, that he did the mature thing - coming home would've been the very definition of non-essential travel, and counter to the recommendations of most public health experts.   And we're dealing with the very real possibility that we won't see him at Christmas, either.

    Our lives are not "ground to a halt" by this.  Nobody is hiding in a closet.  And we're not bowing to some "hidden agenda," or capitulating to "fear-mongering." We're all just trying to do the right thing for each other and for our community, recognizing that some quarter of a million people have died from this damned thing, and we don't want to add to the numbers.

    That;'s a quarter-million people who have died.  I get the occasional email from people suggesting that I am giving the pandemic too much attention, too much space.  To which I reply, how many people have to die to warrant the attention I am giving it?  How many businesses and livelihoods have to be affected?

    Published on: November 17, 2020

    In Monday Night Football play, the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Chicago Bears 19-13.