Well, I owe you an apology for not alerting you to my sudden and quite unexpected absence but there was simply no time to react to a medical emergency which very nearly took me out of this world. EMTs got me to the ER with no time to spare. 2 unspeakably horrifying jolts of cardioversion - "If they hadn't shocked you when they did you'd be dead." - and a Medevac ride to Tucson for 5 days in the superlatively excellent Banner Medical Center Tucson's Cardiac ICU has produced wonderful results, so now home. Slow and easy from now on, my friends, posting may be diminished briefly while I continue getting myself together, so please bear with me. I'm just grateful to be alive, and expect to be up to speed quickly. I hope you're all well and savoring this day, because tomorrow isn't guaranteed for any of us. Make this a good day!
Drop In Property Value As Businesses Face Foreclosure"
by Epic Economist
"While the entire country is on a countdown to the end of the health crisis, the retail industry should brace itself because a huge wave of closures is coming. Analysts from stockbroking firm UBS are warning that "at least tens of thousands" of store closures will occur as a result of the permanent shift in consumer behavior and the rise of e-commerce, whereas a new study conducted by Morgan Stanley experts found that 1 out of 3 shopping malls will soon disappear from the U.S. economic landscape. The decay of struggling U.S. malls has been years in the making. Industry analysts have been speculating for years what would be the ultimate catalyst to trigger malls' undoing - and after the sanitary outbreak hit, they had their answer. It seems like hundreds of commercial properties have reached the point of no return across the U.S., and that's mainly attributed to the fact that the strict social distancing restrictions forced consumers to learn to buy the things they like, want, and need using online platforms. In face of endless possibilities and increased convenience offered by the virtual experience, it's very unlikely customers ever resume their previous spending patterns in physical stores.
Already, 18 major retailers filed for bankruptcy, mostly concentrated in apparel and footwear, home furnishings, grocery, and department stores, according to Green Street reports. Some of these businesses spent over 100 years building their brands into household names, but in 10 short years, a retail apocalypse swept across the industry and left stores empty while malls started to lose relevance. The decay of the sector, like so much in the last decade, can be traced back to the last financial crisis. After the housing bubble burst, several retailers struggled to make it through the Great Recession. Hundreds of thousands of employees were laid off and private equity firms intervened, but in that process, they burdened mall brands with massive amounts of debt. Even companies that managed to stay afloat during the current recession, have been announcing mass store closures hoping to curb their expenses.
Consequently, such closures are having a huge impact on mall occupancy rates and recent numbers are already showing it. In the first quarter of 2021, regional malls in the United States registered the highest vacancy rate in history at 11.4%. The outlook for the sector remains bleak as many more closures are expected. In a report released in April, UBS predicted that in the best-case scenario roughly 80,000 retail stores would close all across the nation in the next few years, affecting nearly 9% of all retail stores, which means one in eleven stores in the United States is on the verge of disappearing forever. In the worst-case scenario is that twice that number of stores could be shut down, accounting for as many as 150,000 closures.
In face of this gloomy forecast, and considering it would be incredibly difficult to fill in all that vacant retail space during one of the worst economic recessions this country has ever experienced, according to a team of Morgan Stanley analysts, 30 to 35 percent of U.S. malls are likely to close for good over the next few months. In other words, 1 out of 3 shopping malls may go extinct even before the economy reopens. Until two years ago, Green Street Advisors still expected them to disappear by 2030, but after last year's events, that forecast got remarkably adjusted: now they anticipate the malls will fade out before the end of this year.
Investors are now having to assess if the best move is to reoccupy the vacant space or cut out the distressed property from their portfolios entirely. Remaining a viable option for investment in a market that is becoming increasingly distressed will certainly not be easy. Already, some of these property owners have taken some desperate measures to keep doors open. As a sign of the times, while vaccines roll out across the country, thousands of people are getting vaccinated in abandoned Kmarts, Sears, and Toys R Us, instead of CVS pharmacies or local health clinics.
For mall owners that have seen store vacancy rates skyrocket over the past twelve months, the symbolism of having deserted stores transformed into mass vaccination clinics underscores how rapidly our economy has changed after the health crisis began, and how the retail apocalypse is turning our once-thriving economic landscape in a dystopian scenario. And even though the end of the outbreak might be in sight as the distribution of the vaccine ramps up, for decaying malls, it seems that this "new normal" means that the new dystopian reality is here to stay."
“Riding high in the constellation of Auriga, beautiful, blue vdB 31 is the 31st object in Sidney van den Bergh's 1966 catalog of reflection nebulae. It shares this well-composed celestial still life with dark, obscuring clouds recorded in Edward E. Barnard's 1919 catalog of dark markings in the sky. All are interstellar dust clouds, blocking the light from background stars in the case of Barnard's dark nebulae. For vdB 31, the dust preferentially reflects the bluish starlight from embedded, hot, variable star AB Aurigae.
Exploring the environs of AB Aurigae with the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed the several million year young star is itself surrounded by flattened dusty disk with evidence for the ongoing formation of a planetary system. AB Aurigae is about 470 light-years away. At that distance this cosmic canvas would span about four light-years.”
“Johannes Kepler is best known for figuring out the laws of planetary motion. In 1610, he published a little book called “The Six-Cornered Snowflake” that asked an even more fundamental question: How do visible forms arise? He wrote: "There must be some definite reason why, whenever snow begins to fall, its initial formation is invariably in the shape of a six-pointed starlet. For if it happens by chance, why do they not fall just as well with five corners or with seven?"
All around him Kepler saw beautiful shapes in nature: six-pointed snowflakes, the elliptical orbits of the planets, the hexagonal honeycombs of bees, the twelve-sided shape of pomegranate seeds. Why? he asks. Why does the stuff of the universe arrange itself into five-petaled flowers, spiral galaxies, double-helix DNA, rhomboid crystals, the rainbow's arc? Why the five-fingered, five-toed, bilaterally symmetric beauty of the newborn child? Why?
Kepler struggles with the problem, and along the way he stumbles onto sphere-packing. Why do pomegranate seeds have twelve flat sides? Because in the growing pomegranate fruit the seeds are squeezed into the smallest possible space. Start with spherical seeds, pack them as efficiently as possible with each sphere touching twelve neighbors. Then squeeze. Voila! And so he goes, convincing us, for example, that the bee's honeycomb has six sides because that's the way to make honey cells with the least amount of wax. His book is a tour-de-force of playful mathematics.
In the end, Kepler admits defeat in understanding the snowflake's six points, but he thinks he knows what's behind all of the beautiful forms of nature: A universal spirit pervading and shaping everything that exists. He calls it nature's "formative capacity." We would be inclined to say that Kepler was just giving a fancy name to something he couldn't explain. To the modern mind, "formative capacity" sounds like empty words.
We can do somewhat better. For example, we explain the shape of snowflakes by the shape of water molecules, and we explain the shape of water molecules with the mathematical laws of quantum physics. Since Kepler's time, we have made impressive progress towards understanding the visible forms of snowflakes, crystals, rainbows, and newborn babes by probing ever deeper into the heart of matter. But we are probably no closer than Kepler to answering the ultimate questions: What is the reason for the curious connection between nature and mathematics? Why are the mathematical laws of nature one thing rather than another? Why does the universe exist at all? Like Kepler, we can give it a name, but the most forthright answer is simply: I don't know.”
“I know you’re reading this. And I want you to know I’m writing this for you. Others will be confused. They will think I’m writing this for them. But I’m not. This one’s for you.
I want you to know that life is not easy. Every day is an unpredictable challenge. Some days it can be difficult to simply get out of bed in the morning. To face reality and put on that smile. But I want you to know, your smile has kept me going on more days than I can count. Never forget that, even through the toughest times, you are incredible. You really are. So smile more often. You have so many reasons to. Time and again, my reason is you.
You won’t always be perfect. Neither will I. Because nobody is perfect, and nobody deserves to be perfect. Nobody has it easy, everybody has issues. You will never know exactly what I’m going through. And I will never know exactly what you’re going through. We are all fighting our own unique war. But we are fighting through it simultaneously, together.
Whenever somebody discredits you, and tells you that you can’t do something, keep in mind that they are speaking from within the boundaries of their own limitations. Ignore them. Don’t give in. In this crazy world that’s trying to make you like everyone else, find the courage to keep being your awesome self. And when they laugh at you for being different, laugh back at them for being the same.
Remember, our courage doesn’t always roar aloud. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering, “I will try again tomorrow.” So stand strong. Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out. And I am committed to making the best of it along with you.”
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences – good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.”
"Financial writer John Rubino says there is no easy way out for the financial and political mess the United States has created for itself. Rubino starts with the economic problems and explains, “Now, inflation is starting to spread. Look at lumber. If you are trying to build a house, it’s $35,000 more now than it was two years ago just because of lumber. Iron ore, house prices, grains, food and you name it, we’ve got inflation going on. At the same time, we have an apparent labor shortage. All these companies are coming out and saying we would love to take on all the business we are being offered to us, but we don’t have enough people. Even Uber and Lyft cannot find enough drivers. It’s weird it is happening this soon, but we should not be surprised since we dumped tens of trillions of dollars into the economy over the past year. This is what you would expect if you get the money supply going up 30% or 40%, which it did. This is what you get. The economy overheats. Now, we are confronted with the nightmare scenario in a fiat currency system. Inflation starts to pick up, which it is. That sends interest rates higher, which is happening. That threatens all the heavily indebted people out there because as rates go up, their costs rise. Then they go bankrupt in increasing numbers, and the system collapses. We are in the early stages in that kind of a process, and I don’t think anybody knows what to do about it.”
It seems Sam Zell knows what to do. Who is Sam Zell? Rubino says, “Well, Sam Zell is one of the biggest real estate investors in the world. The guy has a history of being right at the big turning points. He will build a massive commercial real estate empire with billions and billions of dollars of offices and shopping malls and stuff like that. Then towards the end of the cycle, he will start selling. He will basically get out at the peak of the market. Then the market tanks, and he buys back in. So, he’s a really good indicator of where the economy is going because he has such a history of being right. So, now, the guy is buying gold. I think this is the first time I have ever heard of him doing that. He usually just sells his real estate and goes to cash. Now, he’s selling out of some of his real estate, and instead of putting it into a bank, he’s buying gold with it. This is a good sign from a smart guy. This guy is right so frequently, the fact that he is buying gold is a really good gold buying signal.”
Rubino goes on to warn, “I think the next stage in the market psychology is when people figure out there is no adult supervision left in these markets. Daddy is not going to come home and fix this. We are at the point where there are no solutions, and that’s when things spin out of control. The Mad Max scenario is the extreme end of the spectrum of possibilities, but there can be political and financial chaos where something like the Great Depression or something like the Weimar Germany hyperinflation becomes a real possibility. This is beyond the ability of any individual to fix. We can’t save the system.”