Author Archives: Jon Lowder

Five Fact Friday #12

Five random facts for Friday:

On average, a man’s beard will grow 5.5 inches per year. –

American individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $427.71 billion to U.S. charities in 2018. GivingUSA

In 2018 the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s total budget, which includes the Section 8 program and other forms of public housing and rental assistance, totaled $54.887 billion. – HUD

Benjamin Franklin, age 70, was the oldest signer of the Declaration of Independence. Two men, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Lynch, Jr. were 26 when they signed – Rutledge was younger by three months.- US Archives

This one is special for the locals here in Winston-Salem: Dewey’s Bakery sells sheet cake remnants for $5 a pound. My life, or waist size, won’t be the same after this discovery. – Dewey’s Bakery via my wife


Five Fact Friday #11

Five random facts for Friday:

Instead of the names of dead presidents, Australians nickname their banknotes based on their colors. The yellow $50 is called a pineapple and the orange/red $20 is called a lobster. – The Whippet #97

In 2018 14.3 million households in America were food insecure. Feeding America

26.8% of US citizens age 6+ were physically inactive in 2019. 35.9% engaged in active high calories activities. Inactivity was defined as no to limited activity during the year.   – Physical Activity Council

In 2019 over 1.5 billion smartphones were sold worldwide.-Statista

Alaska has the longest coastline of all US states at 6,640 miles. – WorldAtlas



This New York Times interactive piece offers a chilling look into how COVID-19 spread in the US earlier this year. This part, in particular, caught my attention:


Top federal health experts concluded by late February that the virus was likely to spread widely within the United States and that government officials would soon need to urge the public to embrace social distancing measures, such as avoiding crowds and staying home.

But Mr. Trump wanted to avoid disrupting the economy. So some of his health advisers, at Mr. Trump’s urging, told Americans at the end of February to continue to travel domestically and go on with their normal lives.

And they did. Millions moved across the country, cellphone data shows. Some unknowingly carried the virus with them.


Travel volume from March 1 to March 14, based on aggregated data from Cuebiq, a data intelligence firm. Minor routes not shown.

The reason this caught my attention is that in the March 1-14 window I traveled from my home in North Carolina to Washington, DC for a business trip that included a visit to the offices of several legislators on Capitol Hill on March 11. If that date looks familiar it’s because that’s the last day that Congress was open to visits from the public. Every office we visited had signs on the door stating that they were discouraging shaking hands, but that didn’t stop at least one Congressman from shaking my hand and one staff member from shaking everyone in my group’s hands – around 10 people.

In addition to visiting the Hill, I was attending a small national industry conference held at the Grand Hyatt. Several hundred people flew in from around the country for that meeting, and we spent hours together in meeting rooms of various sizes over several days. At the beginning of the conference, the only precaution we took was making sure everyone had hand sanitizer and we refrained from shaking hands. Three days later they had set up AV equipment in the meeting rooms so that people could remote in from their hotel rooms if they weren’t comfortable meeting in person.

After the conference, we were informed that if anyone was diagnosed with COVID-19 we would be informed and we never did get that notification. To be safe I decided to work from home for two weeks so I didn’t put my office mates at risk, and of course, by the time that was done, we’d shut down our office and moved everyone to work-from-home status.

In an interesting coincidence the League of Municipalities had a meeting in DC the same week we were there. Several members of Winston-Salem’s city council were there and visited Capitol Hill on the same day we did, March 11. Less than a week later they announced that they were self-isolating because attendees at their conference had tested positive for the virus. If I’d had any question about working from home before that then I’d have made the call to do so then because our paths crossed on the Hill.

So, how many meetings/conferences like ours were held somewhere in the country those first two weeks of March? How many people attending those meetings unwittingly carried the virus home with them? How many were like me: they didn’t really want to go to the meeting, but felt they had to? If the government had come out earlier then those meetings likely wouldn’t have happened and we wouldn’t have had to make that decision. It’s impossible to know how many additional infections/deaths this delay led to, but I suspect it was a substantial number.

This final bit of info from the Times piece:

More than 22,000 deaths in the New York City area could have been avoided if the country had started social distancing just one week earlier, Columbia University researchers estimate.

About 36,000 deaths nationwide could have been avoided by early May had social distancing begun earlier, the estimates say.

Five Fact Friday #10

Five random facts for Friday:

In the United States, the top one percent of households holds $25 trillion of household wealth. The middle class, defined as the middle 60 percent of the usual income distribution, owned just $18 trillion. – Brookings

According to the International Monetary Fund the largest economy in the world, measured by Gross Domestic Product, is the United States at $21.44 trillion. The smallest is the pacific island nation of Tuvalu at $42 million. WikiPedia

In 2018 the United States had 23.5 square feet (SF) of retail space per person. The next most was Canada at 16.8 SF/person, then Australia at 11.2 SF/person  and the UK at 4.6 SF/person. Russia has 1.4 SF/person.  – Statista

According to the Airports Council International, in 2015 there were 17,678 commercial airports in the world. If you count all airports, aerodromes and airfields (civilian and military) the count is 41,788.-

In 2018 there were 129 breweries in North Carolina, up from 32 in 2012.- US Census


Five Fact Friday #9

Five random facts for Friday:

At 5’4″ James Madison was the shortest US President. – Wikipedia

The shortest land border between two sovereign states is a two kilometer stretch between Botswana and Zambia- GeoCurrents

3.7 million students are expected to graduate from high school during the 2019-20 school year. 3.3 million from public schools and .3 million from private schools.  – National Center for Education Statistics

The lowest daily total traveler throughput recorded by TSA during the COVID-19 crisis (so far) was 87,534 on April 14, 2020. By comparison the throughput on the same day in 2019 was 2,208,688.- TSA

It takes about 2.6 pounds of grapes to make a bottle of wine, which means there are about 736 grapes in a bottle of wine, or about 164 grapes per glass. – The Backlabel


When Perception Matches Reality

Since the COVID-19 crisis began one of the local testing centers here in Winston-Salem, NC has been located on Hanes Mall Boulevard near my home, and I’ve driven past it at least a few times a week throughout the crisis. For much of the first six-ish weeks of the crisis, I would either see no one out there, or just the health workers hanging out waiting for potential cases to drive in. Then a few weeks ago I started noticing cars in line with people waiting to be tested, and then more recently I saw those lines getting significantly longer. It was noticeable enough that I mentioned to Celeste, my better 3/4, that I wouldn’t be surprised if we started to see on the news that there were more cases in Forsyth County. Sure enough, over the last two weeks, we’ve seen a heavy surge in cases and we’re not alone as the entire state of North Carolina has seen an uptick in positive test results and hospitalizations. The following is from the Winston-Salem Journal:

Forsyth County has experienced its largest one-day spike with 97 new cases reported Thursday by the county Health Department. The previous daily high was 61 on May 14. The number of COVID-19 related deaths remained unchanged at nine.

The overall total surged to 1,160, which may signal that Forsyth has surpassed Guilford for having the third-most cases by county. The latest N.C. Department of Health and Human Services update, released at 11 a.m. Thursday, had Guilford with 1,137 cases and 56 deaths.


This is one of those times where I really wish the reality hadn’t matched my perception.

While we’re here I’ll also share that there’s an anomaly that I can’t wrap my head around: while Forsyth County’s case count has been skyrocketing the deaths have remained relatively low when compared to neighboring Guilford County. Forsyth has 1,160 total cases with 9 deaths, for a fatality rate of .775%. Guilford has 1,173 total cases with 56 deaths, for a fatality rate of 4.77%. Given that the two counties abut each other and are similar in so many ways I just don’t understand what can account for such a large discrepancy.

The numbers are tragic no matter how large or small, but it’s discrepancies like this that make me believe that we still don’t have an accurate picture of what this disease is doing to our community. Only time and good public health science will give us a true picture, and I fear that the worst of this picture is yet to be revealed.

Voices from Past Leaders Trump Today’s

Helluva piece from NPRuses the voices from some of our national leaders of the past to highlight the barren voice of today’s “leader” during our current national tragedy:

BROOKS: Yeah, I guess I’d say tragedies touch us at a deeper level than politics. And at these moments, I think, what presidents do when they’re at their best is they step outside their political role, and they just speak to us humans as humans, whether it was Reagan after The Challenger…


PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: We will never forget them nor the last time we saw them this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God…

BROOKS: …Or Obama after the Newtown shooting.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.

BROOKS: And they really come to us as emotive healers. And with President Trump, we have someone who can’t express empathy. He’s reacted to this crisis simply as a political exercise not as a human tragedy.

KELLY: E.J., your thoughts?

DIONNE: We look to political leaders to help us confront the horrors we experience. We don’t want the horror glossed over or explained away glibly. But we do want paths to hope and solidarity and fellowship and, at least, the possibility that we can emerge from tragedy better than we were before. That’s how we keep living.

The audio is definitely worth a listen if you have a few minutes.


Five Fact Friday #8

Five random facts for Friday:

If the National Basketball Association (NBA) is not able to hold its playoffs this year it will be the first time that the NBA Finals have not been played since the league’s inception in 1946. – Wikipedia

Over 54,000 Slazenger tennis balls are used each year for The Wimbledon Championships. Since the tournament was not held in 2020 there’s no word on if the balls were returned to the wild 😉 – Wimbledon Debenture Holders

The largest ball of string on record is one 4.03m (13ft 2.5in) in diameter and 12.65m (41ft 6in) in circumference, amassed by J.C. Payne of Valley View, Texas, USA between 1989 and 1992. – Source: Guinness Book of World Records

In 2016 beer brewers in the United States produced 221 million hectoliters of beer, which is a lot but not as much as China’s 381 million hectoliters.  – Source:

The Pan American Highway is the longest road in the world. It stretches from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Edmonton, Canada. – Source: ListSurge

Stories by the Numbers

Some interesting numbers. First, check out this graphic from today’s (May 8, 2020, 1:00 p.m.) Wall Street Journal website that highlights why the stock market is a pretty lousy proxy for the economy:

This next number caught my eye because it features a small Nebraska city, Grand Island, where Celeste and I spent one night last summer when we were driving home from Colorado. It’s from an article in the May 7, 2020 Wall Street Journal:

Local officials have now confirmed hundreds of coronavirus cases, with more than 200 linked to a local JBS USA beef plant and another 40 to area nursing homes. There were 1,228 Covid-19 cases as of Tuesday in a city of roughly 51,000, according to the regional health department. That puts its per capita rate of infection well above that of New York, the hardest-hit state in the nation by the coronavirus pandemic.

Compare those numbers to my hometown of Winston-Salem, NC, which has a population of 246,000, 347 confirmed COVID-19 cases and five deaths as of 5/8/2020. So despite have five times the population of Grand Island, Winston-Salem has had less than a third the number of confirmed cases. One interesting piece of info though: Winston-Salem has seen a recent spike in cases and a high percentage of those cases are tied to people who work in a Tysons Food poultry plant located in a county that’s an hour away.

Long story short: food processing plants are becoming a significant hotspot in the less urban parts of the country, and since those operations are all essential and can’t be done remotely, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that small cities and towns across the country could see a significant per-capita impact for months into the future.

Five Fact Friday #7

Five random facts for Friday and posted on Saturday this time around:

Mother’s Day is (normally) the busiest day of the year. – National Restaurant Association via Town & Country

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s victory over France on May 5, 1862 in the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. It is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, but has involved into a commemoration of Mexican culture in the United States. (It’s also a great excuse to drink tequila). – Source:

According to the American Kennel Club the most popular dog breed is the Labrador Retriever. The 192nd most popular, of 192 total, are Sloughis. – Source: American Kennel Club

Paid circulation of daily newspapers in the United States was 62,766,000 in 1985 and 28,554,000 in 2018 – Source:

In 1999 the average American man over the age of 20 was 69.2 inches tall (just over 5’9″), weighed 189.4 pounds and had a waist size of 39 inches. In 2016 those numbers had changed to 69.1 inches, 197.9 pounds and 40.2 inches. For American women the 1999 numbers were 63.8 inches (almost 5’4″), 163.8 pounds and 36.3 inches and in 2016 they were 63.7 inches, 170.6 pounds and 38.6 inches.
So if you do the math in less than 20 years adult American men are essentially the same height on average, but are 4.5% heavier and have an average waist size that is 3% bigger. American women are also essentially the same height, are 4.15% heavier and have an average waist size that is 6.3% bigger. – Source: CDC