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9 months ago
The chronicles of monkeypox.
or, how I spread monkeypox and got it myself.
This story contains nsfw (not safe for wife) stuff and shouldn't be read if you're under 18 or think I'm a newborn angel. After the opening, it's broken into three sections: a chronological explanation of my disease course, my ideas, and what I plan to do next.
Your journey awaits.
As early as mid-may, I was waltzing around the lab talking about monkeypox, a rare tropical disease with an inaccurate name. Monkeys are not its primary animal reservoir. It caused an outbreak among men who have sex with men across Europe, with unprecedented levels of person-to-person transmission. European health authorities speculated that the virus spread at raves and parties and was easily transferred through intimate, mainly sexual, contact. I had already read the nejm article about the first confirmed monkeypox patient in the u.s. and shared the photos on social media so people knew what to look for. The cdc information page only included 4 photographs of monkeypox lesions that looked like they were captured on a motorola razr.
I warned my ex-boyfriend about monkeypox. Monkeypox? responded.
Mom, I'm afraid about monkeypox. What's monkeypox?
My therapist is scared about monkeypox. What's monkeypox?
Was I alone? A few science gays on Twitter didn't make me feel overreacting.
This information got my gay head turning. The incubation period for the sickness is weeks. Many of my social media contacts are traveling to Europe this summer. What is pride? Travel, parties, and sex. Many people may become infected before attending these activities. Monkeypox will affect the lgbtq+ community.
Being right always stinks. My young scientist brain was right, though. Someone who saw this coming is one of the early victims. I'll talk about my feelings publicly, and trust me, I have many concerning what's occurring.
Part 1 is the specifics.
Wednesday nights are never smart but always entertaining. I didn't wake up until noon on june 23 and saw gay twitter blazing. Without warning, the nyc department of health announced a pop-up monkeypox immunization station in chelsea. Some days would be 11am-7pm. Walk-ins were welcome, however appointments were preferred. I tried to arrange an appointment after rubbing my eyes, but they were all taken. I got out of bed, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and put on short shorts because I wanted to get a walk-in dose and show off my legs. I got a 20-oz. cold brew on the way to the train and texted a chelsea-based acquaintance for help.
Clinic closed at 2pm. No more doses. Hundreds queued up. The government initially gave them only 1,000 dosages. For a city with 500,000 LGBT people, c'mon. What more could I do? I was upset by how things were handled. The evidence speaks for itself.
I decided to seek an appointment when additional doses were available and continued my weekend. I was celebrating nyc pride with pals. Fun! sex! *
On tuesday after that, I felt a little burn. This wasn't surprising because I'd been sexually active throughout the weekend, so I got a sti panel the next day. I expected to get results in a few days, take antibiotics, and move on.
Emerging germs had other intentions. Wednesday night, I felt sore, and thursday morning, I had a blazing temperature and had sweat through my bedding. I had fever, chills, and body-wide aches and pains for three days. I reached 102 degrees. I believed I had covid over pride weekend, but I tested negative for three days straight.
STDs don't induce fevers or other systemic symptoms. If lymphogranuloma venereum advances, it can cause flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes. I was suspicious and desperate for answers, so I researched monkeypox on the cdc website (for healthcare professionals). Much of what I saw on screen about monkeypox prodrome matched my symptoms. Multiple-day fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, tiredness, enlarged lymph nodes. Pox were lacking.
I told my doctor my concerns pre-medically. I'm occasionally annoying.
On saturday night, my fever broke and I felt better. Still burning, I was optimistic till sunday, when I woke up with five red splotches on my arms and fingertips.
As spots formed, burning became pain. I observed as spots developed on my body throughout the day. I had more than a dozen by the end of the day, and the early spots were pustular. I had monkeypox, as feared.
Fourth of July weekend limited my options. I'm well-connected in my school's infectious disease academic community, so I texted a coworker for advice. He agreed it was likely monkeypox and scheduled me for testing on tuesday.
nyc health could only perform 10 monkeypox tests every day. Before doctors could take swabs and send them in, each test had to be approved by the department. Some commercial labs can now perform monkeypox testing, but the backlog is huge. I still don't have a positive orthopoxvirus test five days after my test. *My 12-day-old case may not be included in the official monkeypox tally. This outbreak is far wider than we first thought, therefore I'm attempting to spread the information and help contain it.
*Update, 7/11: I have orthopoxvirus.
I spent all day in the bathtub because of the agony. Warm lavender epsom salts helped me feel better. I can't stand lavender anymore. I brought my laptop into the bathroom and viewed everything everywhere at once (2022). If my ex and I hadn't recently broken up, I wouldn't have monkeypox. All of these things made me cry, and I sat in the bathtub on the 4th of July sobbing. I thought, Is this it? I felt like Bridesmaids' Kristen Wiig (2011). I'm a flop. From here, things can only improve.
Later that night, I wore a mask and went to my roof to see the fireworks. Even though I don't like fireworks, there was something wonderful about them this year: the colors, how they illuminated the black surfaces around me, and their transient beauty. Joyful moments rarely linger long in our life. We must enjoy them now.
Several roofs away, my neighbors gathered. Happy 4th! I heard a woman yell. Why is this godforsaken country so happy? Instead of being rude, I replied. I didn't tell them I had monkeypox. I thought that would kill the mood.
By the time I went to the hospital the next day to get my lesions swabbed, wearing long sleeves, pants, and a mask, they looked like this:
I had 30 lesions on my arms, hands, stomach, back, legs, buttcheeks, face, scalp, and right eyebrow. I had some in my mouth, gums, and throat. Current medical thought is that lesions on mucous membranes cause discomfort in sensitive places. Internal lesions are a new feature of this outbreak of monkeypox. Despite being unattractive, the other sores weren't unpleasant or bothersome.
I had a bacterial sti with the pox. Who knows if that would've created symptoms (often it doesn't), but different infections can happen at once. My care team remembered that having a sti doesn't exclude out monkeypox. doxycycline rocks!
The coworker who introduced me to testing also offered me his home. We share a restroom, and monkeypox can be spread through surfaces. (Being a dna virus gives it environmental hardiness that rna viruses like sars-cov-2 lack.) I disinfected our bathroom after every usage, but I was apprehensive. My friend's place has a guest room and second bathroom, so no cross-contamination. It was the ideal monkeypox isolation environment, so I accepted his offer and am writing this piece there. I don't know what I would have done without his hospitality and attention.
The next day, I started tecovirimat, or tpoxx, for 14 days. Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide since the 1980s but remains a bioterrorism concern. Tecovirimat has a unique, orthopoxvirus-specific method of action, which reduces side effects to headache and nausea. It hasn't been used in many people, therefore the cdc is encouraging patients who take it for monkeypox to track their disease and symptoms.
Tpoxx's oral absorption requires a fatty meal. The hospital ordered me to take the medication after a 600-calorie, 25-gram-fat meal every 12 hours. The coordinator joked, "Don't diet for the next two weeks." I wanted to get peanut butter delivered, but jif is recalling their supply due to salmonella. Please give pathogens a break. I got almond butter.
Tpoxx study enrollment was documented. After signing consent documents, my lesions were photographed and measured during a complete physical exam. I got bloodwork to assess my health. My medication delivery was precise; every step must be accounted for. I got a two-week supply and started taking it that night. I rewarded myself with McDonald's. I'd been hungry for a week. I was also prescribed ketorolac (aka toradol), a stronger ibuprofen, for my discomfort.
I thought tpoxx was a wonder medicine by day two of treatment. Early lesions looked like this.
however, They vanished. The three largest lesions on my back flattened and practically disappeared into my skin. Some pustular lesions were diminishing. Tpoxx+toradol has helped me sleep, focus, and feel human again. I'm down to twice-daily baths and feeling hungrier than ever in this illness. On day five of tpoxx, some of the lesions look like this:
I have a ways to go. We must believe I'll be contagious until the last of my patches scabs over, falls off, and sprouts new skin. There's no way to tell. After a week and a half of tremendous pain and psychological stress, any news is good news. I'm grateful for my slow but steady development.
Part 2 of the rant.
Being close to yet not in the medical world is interesting. It lets me know a lot about it without being persuaded by my involvement. Doctors identify and treat patients using a tool called differential diagnosis.
A doctor interviews a patient to learn about them and their symptoms. More is better. Doctors may ask, "Have you traveled recently?" sex life? Have pets? preferred streaming service? (No, really. (Hbomax is right.) After the inquisition, the doctor will complete a body exam ranging from looking in your eyes, ears, and throat to a thorough physical.
After collecting data, the doctor makes a mental (or physical) inventory of all the conceivable illnesses that could cause or explain the patient's symptoms. Differential diagnosis list. After establishing the differential, the clinician can eliminate options. The doctor will usually conduct nucleic acid tests on swab samples or bloodwork to learn more. This helps eliminate conditions from the differential or boosts a condition's likelihood. In an ideal circumstance, the doctor can eliminate all but one reason of your symptoms, leaving your formal diagnosis. Once diagnosed, treatment can begin. yay! Love medicine.
My symptoms two weeks ago did not suggest monkeypox. Fever, pains, weariness, and swollen lymph nodes are caused by several things. My scandalous symptoms weren't linked to common ones. My instance shows the importance of diversity and representation in healthcare. My doctor isn't gay, but he provides culturally sensitive care. I'd heard about monkeypox as a gay man in New York. I was hyper-aware of it and had heard of friends of friends who had contracted it the week before, even though the official case count in the US was 40. My physicians weren't concerned, but I was. How would it appear on his mental differential if it wasn't on his radar? Mental differential rhymes! I'll trademark it to prevent theft. differential!
I was in a rare position to recognize my condition and advocate for myself. I study infections. I'd spent months researching monkeypox. I work at a university where I rub shoulders with some of the country's greatest doctors. I'm a gay dude who follows nyc queer social networks online. All of these variables positioned me to think, "Maybe this is monkeypox," and to explain why.
This outbreak is another example of privilege at work. The brokenness of our healthcare system is once again exposed by the inequities produced by the vaccination rollout and the existence of people like myself who can pull strings owing to their line of work. I can't cure this situation on my own, but I can be a strong voice demanding the government do a better job addressing the outbreak and giving resources and advice to everyone I can.
lgbtqia+ community members' support has always impressed me in new york. The queer community has watched out for me and supported me in ways I never dreamed were possible.
Queer individuals are there for each other when societal structures fail. People went to the internet on the first day of the vaccine rollout to share appointment information and the vaccine clinic's message. Twitter timelines were more effective than marketing campaigns. Contrary to widespread anti-vaccine sentiment, the LGBT community was eager to protect themselves. Smallpox vaccination? sure. gimme. whether I'm safe. I credit the community's sex positivity. Many people are used to talking about STDs, so there's a reduced barrier to saying, "I think I have something, you should be on the watch too," and taking steps to protect our health.
Once I got monkeypox, I posted on Twitter and Instagram. Besides fueling my main character syndrome, I felt like I wasn't alone. My dc-based friend had monkeypox within hours. He told me about his experience and gave me ideas for managing the discomfort. I can't imagine life without him.
My buddy and colleague organized my medical care and let me remain in his home. His and his husband's friendliness and attention made a world of difference in my recovery. All of my friends and family who helped me, whether by venmo, doordash, or moral support, made me feel cared about. I don't deserve the amazing people in my life.
Finally, I think of everyone who commented on my social media posts regarding my trip. Friends from all sectors of my life and all sexualities have written me well wishes and complimented me for my vulnerability, but I feel the most gravitas from fellow lgbtq+ persons. They're learning to spot. They're learning where to go ill. They're learning self-advocacy. I'm another link in our network of caretaking. I've been cared for, therefore I want to do the same. Community and knowledge are powerful.
You're probably wondering where the diatribe is. You may believe he's gushing about his loved ones, and you'd be right. I say that just because the queer community can take care of itself doesn't mean we should.
Even when caused by the same pathogen, comparing health crises is risky. Aids is unlike covid-19 or monkeypox, yet all were caused by poorly understood viruses. The lgbtq+ community has a history of self-medicating. Queer people (and their supporters) have led the charge to protect themselves throughout history when the government refused. Surreal to experience this in real time.
First, vaccination access is a government failure. The strategic national stockpile contains tens of thousands of doses of jynneos, the newest fda-approved smallpox vaccine, and millions of doses of acam2000, an older vaccine for immunocompetent populations. Despite being a monkeypox hotspot and international crossroads, new york has only received 7,000 doses of the jynneos vaccine. Vaccine appointments are booked within minutes. It's showing Hunger Games, which bothers me.
Second, I think the government failed to recognize the severity of the european monkeypox outbreak. We saw abroad reports in may, but the first vaccines weren't available until june. Why was I a 26-year-old pharmacology grad student, able to see a monkeypox problem in europe but not the u.s. public health agency? Or was there too much bureaucracy and politicking, delaying action?
Lack of testing infrastructure for a known virus with vaccinations and therapies is appalling. More testing would have helped understand the problem's breadth. Many homosexual guys, including myself, didn't behave like monkeypox was a significant threat because there were only a dozen instances across the country. Our underestimating of the issue, spurred by a story of few infections, was huge.
Public health officials' response to infectious diseases frustrates me. A wait-and-see approach to infectious diseases is unsatisfactory. Before a sick person is recognized, they've exposed and maybe contaminated numerous others. Vaccinating susceptible populations before a disease becomes entrenched prevents disease. CDC might operate this way. When it was easier, they didn't control or prevent monkeypox. We'll learn when. Sometimes I fear never. Emerging viral infections are a menace in the era of climate change and globalization, and I fear our government will repeat the same mistakes. I don't work at the cdc, thus I have no idea what they do. As a scientist, a homosexual guy, and a citizen of this country, I feel confident declaring that the cdc has not done enough about monkeypox. Will they do enough about monkeypox? The strategic national stockpile can respond to a bioterrorism disaster in 12 hours. I'm skeptical following this outbreak.
It's simple to criticize the cdc, but they're not to blame. Underfunding public health services, especially the cdc, is another way our government fails to safeguard its citizens. I may gripe about the vaccination rollout all I want, but local health departments are doing their best with limited resources. They may not have enough workers to keep up with demand and run a contact-tracing program. Since my orthopoxvirus test is still negative, the doh hasn't asked about my close contacts. By then, my illness will be two weeks old, too long to do anything productive. Not their fault. They're functioning in a broken system that's underfunded for the work it does.
*Update, 7/11: I have orthopoxvirus.
Monkeypox is slow, so i've had time to contemplate. Now that I'm better, I'm angry. furious and sad I want to help. I wish to spare others my pain. This was preventable and solvable, I hope. HOW?
Third, the duty.
Family, especially selected family, helps each other. So many people have helped me throughout this difficult time. How can I give back? I have ideas.
1. Education. I've already started doing this by writing incredibly detailed posts on Instagram about my physical sickness and my thoughts on the entire scandal. via tweets. by producing this essay. I'll keep doing it even if people start to resent me! It's crucial! On my Instagram profile (@kyleplanckton), you may discover a story highlight with links to all of my bizarre yet educational posts.
2. Resources. I've forwarded the contact information for my institution's infectious diseases clinic to several folks who will hopefully be able to get tpoxx under the expanded use policy. Through my social networks, I've learned of similar institutions. I've also shared crowdsourced resources about symptom relief and vaccine appointment availability on social media. DM me or see my Instagram highlight for more.
3. Community action. During my illness, my friends' willingness to aid me has meant the most. It was nice to know I had folks on my side. One of my pals (thanks, kenny) snagged me a mcgriddle this morning when seamless canceled my order. This scenario has me thinking about methods to help people with monkeypox isolation. A two-week isolation period is financially damaging for many hourly workers. Certain governments required paid sick leave for covid-19 to allow employees to recover and prevent spread. No comparable program exists for monkeypox, and none seems to be planned shortly.
I want to aid monkeypox patients in severe financial conditions. I'm willing to pick up and bring groceries or fund meals/expenses for sick neighbors. I've seen several GoFundMe accounts, but I wish there was a centralized mechanism to link those in need with those who can help. Please contact me if you have expertise with mutual aid organizations. I hope we can start this shortly.
4. lobbying. Personal narratives are powerful. My narrative is only one, but I think it's compelling. Over the next day or so, i'll write to local, state, and federal officials about monkeypox. I wanted a vaccine but couldn't acquire one, and I feel tpoxx helped my disease. As a pharmacologist-in-training, I believe collecting data on a novel medicine is important, and there are ethical problems when making a drug with limited patient data broadly available. Many folks I know can't receive tpoxx due of red tape and a lack of contacts. People shouldn't have to go to an ivy league hospital to obtain the greatest care. Based on my experience and other people's tales, I believe tpoxx can drastically lessen monkeypox patients' pain and potentially curb transmission chains if administered early enough. This outbreak is manageable. It's not too late if we use all the instruments we have (diagnostic, vaccine, treatment).
*UPDATE 7/15: I submitted the following letter to Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. I've addressed identical letters to local, state, and federal officials, including the CDC and HHS.
I hope to join RESPND-MI, an LGBTQ+ community-led assessment of monkeypox symptoms and networks in NYC. Visit their website to learn more and give to this community-based charity.
How I got monkeypox is a mystery. I received it through a pride physical interaction, but i'm not sure which one. This outbreak will expand unless leaders act quickly. Until then, I'll keep educating and connecting people to care in my neighborhood.
Despite my misgivings, I see some optimism. Health department social media efforts are underway. During the outbreak, the CDC provided nonjudgmental suggestions for safer social and sexual activity. There's additional information regarding the disease course online, including how to request tpoxx for sufferers. These materials can help people advocate for themselves if they're sick. Importantly, homosexual guys are listening when they discuss about monkeypox online and irl. Learners They're serious.
The government has a terrible track record with lgtbq+ health issues, and they're not off to a good start this time. I hope this time will be better. If I can aid even one individual, I'll do so.
Thanks for reading, supporting me, and spreading awareness about the 2022 monkeypox outbreak. My dms are accessible if you want info, resources, queries, or to chat.
9 months ago
ZERO GRACE/ZERO MALICE
Amazon's purchase of One Medical could speed up American healthcare
The U.S. healthcare industry is a 7-ton seal bleeding at sea. Predators are circling. Unearned margin: price increases relative to inflation without quality improvements. Amazon is the 11-foot megalodon with 7-inch teeth. Amazon is no longer circling... but attacking.
In 2020 dollars, per capita U.S. healthcare spending increased from $2,968 in 1980 to $12,531. The result is a massive industry with 13% of the nation's workers and a fifth of GDP.
In 40 years, healthcare has made progress. From 73.7 in 1980 to 78.8 in 2019, life expectancy rose (before Covid knocked it back down a bit). Pharmacological therapies have revolutionized, and genetic research is paying off. The financial return, improvement split by cost increases, is terrible. No country has expense rises like the U.S., and no one spends as much per capita as we do. Developed countries have longer life expectancies, healthier populations, and less economic hardship.
Two-thirds of U.S. personal bankruptcies are due to medical expenses and/or missed work. Mom or Dad getting cancer could bankrupt many middle-class American families. 40% of American adults delayed or skipped needed care due to cost. Every healthcare improvement seems to have a downside. Same pharmacological revolution that helped millions caused opioid epidemic. Our results are poor in many areas: The U.S. has a high infant mortality rate.
Healthcare is the second-worst retail industry in the country. Gas stations are #1. Imagine walking into a Best Buy to buy a TV and a Blue Shirt associate requests you fill out the same 14 pages of paperwork you filled out yesterday. Then you wait in a crowded room until they call you, 20 minutes after the scheduled appointment you were asked to arrive early for, to see the one person in the store who can talk to you about TVs, who has 10 minutes for you. The average emergency room wait time in New York is 6 hours and 10 minutes.
If it's bad for the customer, it's worse for the business. Physicians spend 27% of their time helping patients; 49% on EHRs. Documentation, order entry, billing, and inbox management. Spend a decade getting an M.D., then become a bureaucrat.
No industry better illustrates scale diseconomies. If we got the same return on healthcare spending as other countries, we'd all live to 100. We could spend less, live longer and healthier, and pay off the national debt in 15 years. U.S. healthcare is the worst ever.
What now? Competition is at the heart of capitalism, the worst system of its kind.
Amazon is buying One Medical for $3.9 billion. I think this deal will liberate society. Two years in, I think One Medical is great. When I got Covid, I pressed the One Medical symbol on my phone; a nurse practitioner prescribed Paxlovid and told me which pharmacies had it in stock.
Amazon enables the company's vision. One Medical's stock is down to $10 from $40 at the start of 2021. Last year, it lost $250 million and needs cash (Amazon has $60 billion). ONEM must grow. The service has 736,000 members. Half of U.S. households have Amazon Prime. Finally, delivery. One Medical is a digital health/physical office hybrid, but you must pick up medication at the pharmacy. Upgrade your Paxlovid delivery time after a remote consultation. Amazon's core competency means it'll happen. Healthcare speed and convenience will feel alien.
It's been a long, winding road to disruption. Amazon, JPMorgan, and Berkshire Hathaway formed Haven four years ago to provide better healthcare for their 1.5 million employees. It rocked healthcare stocks the morning of the press release, but folded in 2021.
Amazon Care is an employee-focused service. Home-delivered virtual health services and nurses. It's doing well, expanding nationwide, and providing healthcare for other companies. Hilton is Amazon Care's biggest customer. The acquisition of One Medical will bring 66 million Prime households capital, domain expertise, and billing infrastructure. Imagine:
"Alexa, I'm hot and my back hurts."
"Connecting you to a Prime doctor now."
Want to vs. Have to
I predicted Amazon entering healthcare years ago. Why? For the same reason Apple is getting into auto. Amazon's P/E is 56, double Walmart's. The corporation must add $250 billion in revenue over the next five years to retain its share price. White-label clothes or smart home products won't generate as much revenue. It must enter a huge market without scale, operational competence, and data skills.
Healthcare reform benefits both consumers and investors. In 2015, healthcare services had S&P 500-average multiples. The market is losing faith in public healthcare businesses' growth. Healthcare services have lower EV/EBITDA multiples than the S&P 500.
Amazon isn't the only prey-hunter. Walmart and Alibaba are starting pharmacies. Uber is developing medical transportation. Private markets invested $29 billion in telehealth last year, up 95% from 2020.
The pandemic accelerated telehealth, the immediate unlock. After the first positive Covid case in the U.S., services that had to be delivered in person shifted to Zoom... We lived. We grew. Video house calls continued after in-person visits were allowed. McKinsey estimates telehealth visits are 38 times pre-pandemic levels. Doctors adopted the technology, regulators loosened restrictions, and patients saved time. We're far from remote surgery, but many patient visits are unnecessary. A study of 40 million patients during lockdown found that for chronic disease patients, online visits didn't affect outcomes. This method of care will only improve.
Amazon's disruption will be significant and will inspire a flood of capital, startups, and consumer brands. Mark Cuban launched a pharmacy that eliminates middlemen in January. Outcome? A 90-day supply of acid-reflux medication costs $17. Medicare could have saved $3.6 billion by buying generic drugs from Cuban's pharmacy. Other apex predators will look at different limbs of the carcass for food. Nike could enter healthcare via orthopedics, acupuncture, and chiropractic. LVMH, L'Oréal, and Estée Lauder may launch global plastic surgery brands. Hilton and Four Seasons may open hospitals. Lennar and Pulte could build "Active Living" communities that Nana would leave feet first, avoiding the expense and tragedy of dying among strangers.
Privacy matters: HIV status is different from credit card and billing address. Most customers (60%) feel fine sharing personal health data via virtual technologies, though. Unavoidable. 85% of doctors believe data-sharing and interoperability will become the norm. Amazon is the most trusted tech company for handling personal data. Not Meta: Amazon.
What about antitrust, then?
Amazon should be required to spin off AWS and/or Amazon Fulfillment and banned from promoting its own products. It should be allowed to acquire hospitals. One Medical's $3.9 billion acquisition is a drop in the bucket compared to UnitedHealth's $498 billion market valuation.
Antitrust enforcement shouldn't assume some people/firms are good/bad. It should recognize that competition is good and focus on making markets more competitive in each deal. The FTC should force asset divestitures in e-commerce, digital marketing, and social media. These companies can also promote competition in a social ill.
U.S. healthcare makes us fat, depressed, and broke. Competition has produced massive value and prosperity across most of our economy.
Dear Amazon … bring it.
4 months ago
What Happens When You Sell Your House, Never Buying It Again, Reverse the American Dream
Homeownership isn't the only life pattern.
Want to irritate people?
My party trick is to say I used to own a house but no longer do.
I no longer wish to own a home, not because I lost it or because I'm moving.
It was a long-term plan. It was more deliberate than buying a home. Many people are committed for this reason.
Anyone who told me that owning a house (or striving to do so) is a must is wrong.
One pattern for life is to own a home, but there are millions of others.
You can afford to buy a home? Go, buddy.
You think you need 1,000 square feet (or more)? You think it's non-negotiable in life?
It's insane that society forces everyone to own real estate, regardless of income, wants, requirements, or situation. As if this trade brings happiness, stability, and contentment.
Take it from someone who thought this for years: drywall isn't happy. Living your way brings contentment.
That's in real estate. It may also be renting a small apartment in a city that makes your soul sing, but you can't afford the downpayment or mortgage payments.
Living or traveling abroad is difficult when your life savings are connected to something that eats your money the moment you sign.
#vanlife, which seems like torment to me, makes some people feel alive.
I've seen co-living, vacation rental after holiday rental, living with family, and more work.
Insisting that home ownership is the only path in life is foolish and reduces alternative options.
How little we question homeownership is a disgrace.
No one challenges a homebuyer's motives. We congratulate them, then that's it.
When you offload one, you must answer every question, even if you have a loose screw.
Why do you want to sell?
Do you have any concerns about leaving the market?
Why would you want to renounce what everyone strives for?
Why would you want to abandon a beautiful place like that?
Why would you mismanage your cash in such a way?
But surely it's only temporary? RIGHT??
Incorrect questions. Buying a property requires several inquiries.
The typical American has $4500 saved up. When something goes wrong with the house (not if, it’s never if), can you actually afford the repairs?
Are you certain that you can examine a home in less than 15 minutes before committing to buying it outright and promising to pay more than twice the asking price on a 30-year 7% mortgage?
Are you certain you're ready to leave behind friends, family, and the services you depend on in order to acquire something?
Have you thought about the connotation that moving to a suburb, which more than half of Americans do, means you will be dependent on a car for the rest of your life?
Are you sure you want to prioritize home ownership over debt, employment, travel, raising kids, and daily routines?
Homeownership entails that. This ex-homeowner says it will rule your life from the time you put the key in the door.
This isn't questioned. We don't question enough. The holy home-ownership grail was set long ago, and we don't challenge it.
Many people question after signing the deeds. 70% of homeowners had at least one regret about buying a property, including the expense.
Homes are different from houses
We've been fooled into thinking home ownership will make us happy.
Some may agree. No one.
Bricks and brick hindered me from living the version of my life that made me most comfortable, happy, and steady.
I'm spending the next month in a modest apartment in southern Spain. Even though it's late November, today will be 68 degrees. My spouse and I will soon meet his visiting parents. We'll visit a Sherry store. We'll eat, nap, walk, and drink Sherry. Writing. Jerez means flamenco.
That's my home. This is such a privilege. Living a fulfilling life brings me the contentment that buying a home never did.
I'm happy and comfortable knowing I can make almost all of my days good. Rejecting home ownership is partly to blame.
I'm broke like most folks. I had to choose between home ownership and comfort. I said, I didn't find them together.
Feeling at home trumps owning brick-and-mortar every day.
The following is the reality of what it's like to turn the American Dream around.
Leaving the housing market.
Sometimes I wish I owned a home.
I miss having my own yard and bed. My kitchen, cookbooks, and pizza oven are missed.
But I rarely do.
Someone else's life plan pushed home ownership on me. I'm grateful I figured it out at 35. Many take much longer, and some never understand homeownership stinks (for them).
It's confusing. People will think you're dumb or suicidal.
If you read what I write, you'll know. You'll realize that all you've done is choose to live intentionally. Find a home beyond four walls and a picket fence.
Miss? As I said, they're not home. If it were, a pizza oven, a good mattress, and a well-stocked kitchen would bring happiness.
If you can afford a house and desire one, more power to you.
There are other ways to discover home. Find calm and happiness. For fun.
For it, look deeper than your home's foundation.
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11 months ago
Bernard Lawrence "Bernie" Madoff, the largest Ponzi scheme in history
Bernie Madoff ran the largest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding thousands of investors over at least 17 years, and possibly longer. He pioneered electronic trading and chaired Nasdaq in the 1990s. On April 14, 2021, he died while serving a 150-year sentence for money laundering, securities fraud, and other crimes.
Madoff claimed to generate large, steady returns through a trading strategy called split-strike conversion, but he simply deposited client funds into a single bank account and paid out existing clients. He funded redemptions by attracting new investors and their capital, but the market crashed in late 2008. He confessed to his sons, who worked at his firm, on Dec. 10, 2008. Next day, they turned him in. The fund reported $64.8 billion in client assets.
Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felony counts, including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, perjury, and money laundering. Ponzi scheme became a symbol of Wall Street's greed and dishonesty before the financial crisis. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $170 billion, but no other Wall Street figures faced legal ramifications.
Bernie Madoff's Brief Biography
Bernie Madoff was born in Queens, New York, on April 29, 1938. He began dating Ruth (née Alpern) when they were teenagers. Madoff told a journalist by phone from prison that his father's sporting goods store went bankrupt during the Korean War: "You watch your father, who you idolize, build a big business and then lose everything." Madoff was determined to achieve "lasting success" like his father "whatever it took," but his career had ups and downs.
Early Madoff investments
At 22, he started Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. First, he traded penny stocks with $5,000 he earned installing sprinklers and as a lifeguard. Family and friends soon invested with him. Madoff's bets soured after the "Kennedy Slide" in 1962, and his father-in-law had to bail him out.
Madoff felt he wasn't part of the Wall Street in-crowd. "We weren't NYSE members," he told Fishman. "It's obvious." According to Madoff, he was a scrappy market maker. "I was happy to take the crumbs," he told Fishman, citing a client who wanted to sell eight bonds; a bigger firm would turn it down.
Success came when he and his brother Peter built electronic trading capabilities, or "artificial intelligence," that attracted massive order flow and provided market insights. "I had all these major banks coming down, entertaining me," Madoff told Fishman. "It was mind-bending."
By the late 1980s, he and four other Wall Street mainstays processed half of the NYSE's order flow. Controversially, he paid for much of it, and by the late 1980s, Madoff was making in the vicinity of $100 million a year. He was Nasdaq chairman from 1990 to 1993.
Madoff's Ponzi scheme
It is not certain exactly when Madoff's Ponzi scheme began. He testified in court that it began in 1991, but his account manager, Frank DiPascali, had been at the firm since 1975.
Why Madoff did the scheme is unclear. "I had enough money to support my family's lifestyle. "I don't know why," he told Fishman." Madoff could have won Wall Street's respect as a market maker and electronic trading pioneer.
Madoff told Fishman he wasn't solely responsible for the fraud. "I let myself be talked into something, and that's my fault," he said, without saying who convinced him. "I thought I could escape eventually. I thought it'd be quick, but I couldn't."
Carl Shapiro, Jeffry Picower, Stanley Chais, and Norm Levy have been linked to Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC for years. Madoff's scheme made these men hundreds of millions of dollars in the 1960s and 1970s.
Madoff told Fishman, "Everyone was greedy, everyone wanted to go on." He says the Big Four and others who pumped client funds to him, outsourcing their asset management, must have suspected his returns or should have. "How can you make 15%-18% when everyone else is making less?" said Madoff.
How Madoff Got Away with It for So Long
Madoff's high returns made clients look the other way. He deposited their money in a Chase Manhattan Bank account, which merged to become JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2000. The bank may have made $483 million from those deposits, so it didn't investigate.
When clients redeemed their investments, Madoff funded the payouts with new capital he attracted by promising unbelievable returns and earning his victims' trust. Madoff created an image of exclusivity by turning away clients. This model let half of Madoff's investors profit. These investors must pay into a victims' fund for defrauded investors.
Madoff wooed investors with his philanthropy. He defrauded nonprofits, including the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Peace and Hadassah. He approached congregants through his friendship with J. Ezra Merkin, a synagogue officer. Madoff allegedly stole $1 billion to $2 billion from his investors.
Investors believed Madoff for several reasons:
- His public portfolio seemed to be blue-chip stocks.
- His returns were high (10-20%) but consistent and not outlandish. In a 1992 interview with Madoff, the Wall Street Journal reported: "[Madoff] insists the returns were nothing special, given that the S&P 500-stock index returned 16.3% annually from 1982 to 1992. 'I'd be surprised if anyone thought matching the S&P over 10 years was remarkable,' he says.
- "He said he was using a split-strike collar strategy. A collar protects underlying shares by purchasing an out-of-the-money put option.
The Securities and Exchange Commission had been investigating Madoff and his securities firm since 1999, which frustrated many after he was prosecuted because they felt the biggest damage could have been prevented if the initial investigations had been rigorous enough.
Harry Markopolos was a whistleblower. In 1999, he figured Madoff must be lying in an afternoon. The SEC ignored his first Madoff complaint in 2000.
Markopolos wrote to the SEC in 2005: "The largest Ponzi scheme is Madoff Securities. This case has no SEC reward, so I'm turning it in because it's the right thing to do."
Many believed the SEC's initial investigations could have prevented Madoff's worst damage.
Markopolos found irregularities using a "Mosaic Method." Madoff's firm claimed to be profitable even when the S&P fell, which made no mathematical sense given what he was investing in. Markopolos said Madoff Securities' "undisclosed commissions" were the biggest red flag (1 percent of the total plus 20 percent of the profits).
Markopolos concluded that "investors don't know Bernie Madoff manages their money." Markopolos learned Madoff was applying for large loans from European banks (seemingly unnecessary if Madoff's returns were high).
The regulator asked Madoff for trading account documentation in 2005, after he nearly went bankrupt due to redemptions. The SEC drafted letters to two of the firms on his six-page list but didn't send them. Diana Henriques, author of "The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust," documents the episode.
In 2008, the SEC was criticized for its slow response to Madoff's fraud.
Confession, sentencing of Bernie Madoff
Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC reported 5.6% year-to-date returns in November 2008; the S&P 500 fell 39%. As the selling continued, Madoff couldn't keep up with redemption requests, and on Dec. 10, he confessed to his sons Mark and Andy, who worked at his firm. "After I told them, they left, went to a lawyer, who told them to turn in their father, and I never saw them again. 2008-12-11: Bernie Madoff arrested.
Madoff insists he acted alone, but several of his colleagues were jailed. Mark Madoff died two years after his father's fraud was exposed. Madoff's investors committed suicide. Andy Madoff died of cancer in 2014.
2009 saw Madoff's 150-year prison sentence and $170 billion forfeiture. Marshals sold his three homes and yacht. Prisoner 61727-054 at Butner Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina.
Madoff's lawyers requested early release on February 5, 2020, claiming he has a terminal kidney disease that may kill him in 18 months. Ten years have passed since Madoff's sentencing.
Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme aftermath
The paper trail of victims' claims shows Madoff's complexity and size. Documents show Madoff's scam began in the 1960s. His final account statements show $47 billion in "profit" from fake trades and shady accounting.
Thousands of investors lost their life savings, and multiple stories detail their harrowing loss.
Irving Picard, a New York lawyer overseeing Madoff's bankruptcy, has helped investors. By December 2018, Picard had recovered $13.3 billion from Ponzi scheme profiteers.
A Madoff Victim Fund (MVF) was created in 2013 to help compensate Madoff's victims, but the DOJ didn't start paying out the $4 billion until late 2017. Richard Breeden, a former SEC chair who oversees the fund, said thousands of claims were from "indirect investors"
Breeden and his team had to reject many claims because they weren't direct victims. Breeden said he based most of his decisions on one simple rule: Did the person invest more than they withdrew? Breeden estimated 11,000 "feeder" investors.
Breeden wrote in a November 2018 update for the Madoff Victim Fund, "We've paid over 27,300 victims 56.65% of their losses, with thousands more to come." In December 2018, 37,011 Madoff victims in the U.S. and around the world received over $2.7 billion. Breeden said the fund expected to make "at least one more significant distribution in 2019"
This post is a summary. Read full article here
9 months ago
Trends in SaaS Funding from 2016 to 2022
Christopher Janz of Point Nine Capital created the SaaS napkin in 2016. This post shows how founders have raised cash in the last 6 years. View raw data.
Unsurprisingly, round sizes have expanded and will taper down in 2022. In 2016, pre-seed rounds were $200k to $500k; currently, they're $1-$2m. Despite the macroeconomic scenario, Series A have expanded from $3m to $12m in 2016 to $6m and $18m in 2022.
There are hints that valuations are rebounding this year. Pre-seed valuations in 2022 are $12m from $3m in 2016, and Series B prices are $270m from $100m in 2016.
Compared to public SaaS multiples, Series B valuations more closely reflect the market, but Seed and Series A prices seem to be inflated regardless of the market.
I'd like to know how each annual cohort performed for investors, based on the year they invested and the valuations. I can't access this information.
Seed firms' ARR forecasts have risen from $0 to $0.6m to $0 to $1m. 2016 expected $1.2m to $3m, 2021 $0.5m to $4m, and this year $0.5m to $2.5m, suggesting that Series A firms may raise with less ARR today. Series B minutes fell from $4.2m to $3m.
2022 is the year that VCs start discussing capital efficiency in portfolio meetings. Given the economic shift in the markets and the stealthy VC meltdown, it's not surprising. Christopher Janz added capital efficiency to the SaaS Napkin as a new statistic for Series A (3.5x) and Series B. (2.5x). Your investors must live under a rock if they haven't asked about capital efficiency. If you're unsure:
The Capital Efficiency Ratio is the ratio of how much a company has spent growing revenue and how much they’re receiving in return. It is the broadest measure of company effectiveness in generating ARR
No one knows what's next, including me. All startup and growing enterprises around me are tightening their belts and extending their runways in anticipation of a difficult fundraising ride. If you're wanting to raise money but can wait, wait till the market is more stable and access to money is easier.
10 months ago
A Day in the Life of Lex Fridman Can Help You Hit 6-Month Goals
The Lex Fridman podcast host has interviewed Elon Musk.
Lex is a minimalist YouTuber. His videos are sloppy. Suits are his trademark.
In a video, he shares a typical day. I've smashed my 6-month goals using its ideas.
Here's his schedule.
Not woo-woo. Lex's mantra reflects his practicality.
"I remember the game's rules," he says.
Sleeping 6–8 hours nightly
1–3 times a day, he checks social media.
Every day, despite pain, he exercises. "I exercise uninjured body parts."
He imagines his day. "Like Sims..."
He says three things he's grateful for and contemplates death.
"Today may be my last"
Then he visualizes his goals. He starts big. Five-year goals.
Short-term goals follow. Lex says they're year-end goals.
Near but out of reach.
He lists his principles. Assertions. His goals.
He acknowledges his cliche beliefs. Compassion, empathy, and strength are key.
Here's my mantra routine:
Four-Hour Deep Work
Lex begins a four-hour deep work session after his mantra routine. Today's toughest.
AI is Lex's specialty. His video doesn't explain what he does.
Clearly, he works hard.
Before starting, he has water, coffee, and a bathroom break.
"During deep work sessions, I minimize breaks."
He's distraction-free. Phoneless. Silence. Nothing. Any loose ideas are typed into a Google doc for later. He wants to work.
"Just get the job done. Don’t think about it too much and feel good once it’s complete." — Lex Fridman
30-Minute Social Media & Music
After his first deep work session, Lex rewards himself.
10 minutes on social media, 20 on music. Upload content and respond to comments in 10 minutes. 20 minutes for guitar or piano.
"In the real world, I’m currently single, but in the music world, I’m in an open relationship with this beautiful guitar. Open relationship because sometimes I cheat on her with the acoustic." — Lex Fridman
Then exercise for two hours.
Daily runs six miles. Then he chooses how far to go. Run time is an hour.
He does bodyweight exercises. Every minute for 15 minutes, do five pull-ups and ten push-ups. It's David Goggins-inspired. He aims for an hour a day.
He's hungry. Before running, he takes a salt pill for electrolytes.
He'll then take a one-minute cold shower while listening to cheesy songs. Afterward, he might eat.
Four-Hour Deep Work
Lex's second work session.
He works 8 hours a day.
Again, zero distractions.
The video's meal doesn't look appetizing, but it's healthy.
It's ground beef with vegetables. Cauliflower is his "ground-floor" veggie. "Carrots are my go-to party food."
Lex's keto diet includes 1800–2000 calories.
He drinks a "nutrient-packed" Atheltic Greens shake and takes tablets. It's:
One daily tablet of sodium.
Magnesium glycinate tablets stopped his keto headaches.
Potassium — "For electrolytes"
Fish oil: healthy joints
“So much of nutrition science is barely a science… I like to listen to my own body and do a one-person, one-subject scientific experiment to feel good.” — Lex Fridman
Four-hour shallow session
This work isn't as mentally taxing.
Lex planned to:
Finish last session's deep work (about an hour)
Adobe Premiere podcasting (about two hours).
Email-check (about an hour). Three times a day max. First, check for emergencies.
If he's sick, he may watch Netflix or YouTube documentaries or visit friends.
“The possibilities of chaos are wide open, so I can do whatever the hell I want.” — Lex Fridman
Two-hour evening reading
Lex ends the day reading academic papers for an hour. "Today I'm skimming two machine learning and neuroscience papers"
This helps him "think beyond the paper."
He reads for an hour.
“When I have a lot of energy, I just chill on the bed and read… When I’m feeling tired, I jump to the desk…” — Lex Fridman
Lex's day-in-the-life video is inspiring.
He has positive energy and works hard every day.
Mantra Routine includes rules, visualizing, goals, and principles.
Deep Work Session #1: Four hours of focus.
10 minutes social media, 20 minutes guitar or piano. "Music brings me joy"
Six-mile run, then bodyweight workout. Two hours total.
Deep Work #2: Four hours with no distractions. Google Docs stores random thoughts.
Lex supplements his keto diet.
This four-hour session is "open to chaos."
Evening reading: academic papers followed by fiction.
"I value some things in life. Work is one. The other is loving others. With those two things, life is great." — Lex Fridman