Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

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Killing Time In Quarantine

Backyard birding is having a moment thanks to the coronavirus, with homebound Chicagoans spotting everything from great horned owls to fiery cardinals and canary-yellow finches by Nara Schoenberg (MSN/Chicago Tribune)

Birding – and providing the infrastructure for winged friends to frolic in easy site of bored humans – is having a serious moment. [Link]

Issue 15: Sourdough, Status, and Self-Isolation by Andrew Potter (Policy for Pandemics)

With lots of time on their hands, people are turning into amateur bakers. But why? It’s one way that status-seeking members of the leisure class can signal they have the time to kill while they stay at home. [Link]

Binge Nation: Average American Streams 8 Hours Of Content Per Day During Coronavirus Outbreak! by John Anderer (Study Finds)

A national survey suggests that Americans are spending an epic amount of time in front of the TV as a result of the COVID outbreak and its quarantines. [Link]

COVID Changes Everything

California COVID-19 Traffic Report Finds Silver Lining by Kat Kerlin (UC Davis)

With far fewer cars on the road, $1bn in costs have been avoided in California over the course of the various policies instituted to prevent the spread of COVID in the state. [Link]

Coronavirus Fight Hinders Action Against Other Deadly Diseases by Saeed Shah and Joe Parkinson (WSJ)

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in developing countries, vaccination drives have been halted across the world; the result may reduce the spread short-term, but risks surrendering progress made in the fight against other communicable diseases. [Link; paywall]

How Many Kids Attend School Each Day? During Coronavirus, No One Knows by Tawnell D. Hobbs (WSJ)

Just taking attendance – let alone enforcing it – is proving challenging for schools that are trying to stay closed in order to prevent the impact of the virus. [Link; paywall]

Inside the life of a homeless Chicago student in the age of the coronavirus: Fear of failing — or not surviving by Nader Issa (Chicago Sun-Times)

Schools are critical for providing social services to vulnerable children, and their closure creates risks for those kids that don’t exist for anyone else. [Link]


China Post-Coronavirus: Signs of Life, Censorship and Paranoia by Paul Mozur (NYT)

A closely-documented story of reporters trying to get the story about life on the street in a mid-tier Chinese city, only to be stymied by aggressive efforts at controlling the narrative. [Link; soft paywall]

Stephon Marbury’s Wild Ride on the Front End of the Coronavirus Pandemic by Stu Woo and Jonathan Cheng (WSJ)

Former Knicks star and current Chines Basketball Association coach was instrumental in warning the NBA about the risks of business-as-usual, itself a key signal in the broader move to shut down activity around the US. [Link; paywall]


Renaissance’s $10 Billion Medallion Fund Gains 24% Year to Date in Tumultuous Market by Gregory Zuckerman (WSJ)

Renaissance Technologies (which almost exclusively manages internal capital) is up 39% before the hefty taxes and fees applied to the funds it manages so far this year. [Link; paywall]

Oh brother! Coronavirus calls split family fortunes on Wall Street by Lawrence Delevingne (Reuters)

The Sandler brothers have opposing views about the outlook, and both manage multi-billion dollar hedge funds that they’re using to bet on their respective conclusions. [Link]

The C-Suite

Charlie Munger: ‘The Phone Is Not Ringing Off the Hook’ by Jason Zweig (WSJ)

96 years and counting haven’t prevented Charlie Munger from looking for deals, but currently there isn’t much interest for capital from Berkshire Hathaway. [Link; paywall]

Bob Iger Thought He Was Leaving on Top. Now, He’s Fighting for Disney’s Life. by Ben Smith (NYT)

The Disney CEO was set to retire at the end of last year but the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 has forced re-evaluation as Iger reasserts himself to manage the company through its storm. [Link; soft paywall]

Social Media

Connected, but at what cost? by Brad Wible (Science)

Facebook users were given $102 to leave their social media presence behind and the result was more time socializing face-to-face, less political polarization, and improved senses of well-being. [Link]


Coronavirus is making touch-free shopping a necessity by Ben Fox Rubin (CNet)

In addition to its delivery network, Amazon is building out other alternatives for a post-COVID world; other companies are in a similar boat as contact-free, tap-to-pay, and curbside become buzzwords. [Link]

Amazon slashes commission rates for program that gives publishers a cut of sales by Annie Palmer (CNBC)

The e-commerce company is reducing payments made to third-party sites that direct traffic to its pages, a way of reducing overhead and increasing profitability. [Link]

Economic Impacts

Glutted Oil Markets’ Next Worry: Subzero Prices by Sarah Toy (WSJ)

With demand collapsing, global oil markets are nearing a surplus so large that storage is completely unavailable and producers or marketers made end up needing to pay someone else to take their crude. [Link; paywall]

How Does Household Spending Respond To An Epidemic? Consumption During The 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic by Scott R. Baker, R.A. Farrokhnia, Steffen Meyer, Michaela Pagel, and Constantine Yannelis (NBER Working Papers)

Transaction-level data is used to identify high frequency spending changes, which are generally intuitive, but have some interesting details. [Link; 35 page PDF]

On The Front Lines

P&G Toilet Paper Factory Keeps Delivering as Coronavirus Strikes Its Town by Sharon Terlep (WSJ)

As a COVID-19 outbreak raged across southern Georgia, especially tiny Albany. Ironically, COVID was fueling demand for the output of the town’s major employer: P&G and its various toilet paper brands. [Link; paywall]

27-year-old grocery store clerk kept working because she wanted to help people. Then she died from coronavirus. by Caitlin O’Kane (CBS)

Under-protected retail workers like Leilani Jordan have borne an unbearable toll from the virus, and that toll is all the more tragic when quotes like hers are appended to their lives: “I’m going to go to work. I’m going to still go to work. I want to help.”. [Link]

MLB team employees will be the subjects of US’s largest COVID-19 antibody study by Molly Knight (The Athletic)

With the help of ten thousand employees across 27 clubs, Major League Baseball is helping roll out a widespread study of how many Americans may have had COVID-19 already. [Link; paywall]


The Stockdale Paradox (Jim Coillins)

How to persevere and survive amidst a brutal period? Don’t cave in to either pessimism or optimism, and instead hold on to belief in success despite inevitable massive costs. [Link]

The True Story of The Lost Boys’ Sax Man (Gizmodo)

An oral history of an iconic one-time role for an obscure musician who has been known for nothing else since. [Link]

A Team Exploited the Coronavirus Pandemic to Set a 26-Hour 38-Minute Cross-Country Record by Angelo Melluso (Road & Track)

The Cannonball Run, a not-strictly-legal time trial from New York to Los Angeles, was tested by an under-the-radar team hoping to take advantage of driverless roads amidst the pandemic. [Link]

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Have a great weekend!

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