Ruminations in Social Isolation

Just about every idea, plan, opinion, prediction, projection, analysis, budget, wish, timeline, piece of advice and future consideration that was made a month ago (or even yesterday) is no longer relevant.

For years anti-terrorist experts were concerned about the destruction and deaths associated with a dirty bomb being exploded in a major city like New York. Not sure anyone envisioned how much more destructive and deadly the coronavirus is compared to a dirty bomb.

The fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941 was more prepared than we are today. At least the country had FDR in 1941 for leadership, today we have Trump. For point of comparison, listen to FDR’s speech to Congress declaring war on Japan and Trump’s feeble speech from the Oval Office on the coronavirus outbreak.

How useless is money when there is nowhere to spend it and with the exceptions of food and other household necessities, no compelling rationale to buy anything?

The wise are focused on their health, families and friends. Fools are worried about their portfolios.

Does anyone else other than me find it macabre that Wall St analysts and other investors rejoice when the Dow swings upward at the same time deaths climb exponentially?

Doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, truckers, assembly workers, mail carriers and others have been drafted into a war they did not seek. Facing an invisible enemy in a front line of a battle, they are susceptible to experiencing the most casualties.

When will we start seeing ads on TV from lawyers soliciting lawsuits for coronavirus treatments and testing?

I can appreciate the prayers of the faithful asking God to help the sick recover from coronavirus and to protect doctors and nurses. But if God is all Good and Loving, shouldn’t He/She have spared tens of millions from infection and millions from death and destitution?


I was going through old work files to purge them. This effort triggered some memories from the early stages of my career that I have not purged…Some work memories make me smile. Some make me wince. I think I had good relationships with most people I worked with despite having an INTJ work personality. One of my friends in giving me a recommendation noted to a prospective employer that I “did not suffer fools gladly.” She was dead on.


I’ve experienced a number of bad bosses. These were men (and women) whose ambition, greed and often stupidity made it tough to work with them. My worst boss came very early in my career. After college, I was part of a management trainee program for a financial company. I was doing very well after being there for 1 1/2 years. I got very good reviews from a number of managers and supervisors. But that would change. A new manager was coming in to the branch I was working. He came in with a reputation as  being rude to both employees and customers. I chose to be optimistic. All my previous managers were very happy with my job performance. On his first day in our branch, I came in early. He was there with our office manager. He was about 10 years older than me and much shorter. I came up after they finished talking and introduced myself while also extending my hand in welcome. He stared at my outstretched hand, ignored my greeting, spun and walked away. That awkward moment turned out to be the high point of our business relationship. He wound up either firing or having all the management trainees in the office quit. He terrorized the female clerks in the branch with his yelling and caustic remarks. I was the lone survivor. At 23, I wasn’t sure how to handle conflicts. I largely ignored his sarcastic remarks towards me until the one day I couldn’t.  One morning, he yelled something at me across the lobby floor but I couldn’t quite hear it as a print terminal was spitting out some paperwork. However he added an epitaph to his yelling he thought I would not hear. I saw the women close to him stiffen up. They hoped I did not hear it. I smiled, put down the files I had in my hand, walked over to where he was standing  and opened the branch door, “Let’s go outside and you can repeat to me what you said.” He turned red and glared at me.  I called his bluff. Wisely he chose not to go outside. Wisely I found another job fairly quickly…


While I was in college, I worked for a retail store named S. Kleins’s. One of the things I enjoyed to do was to write promotions and sales ads and announce them over the store intercom. I think I just loved to hear the sound of my own voice. But I also was very clever with the ads at times and got shoppers interested in the sales I promoted. Store Manager loved it and gave me free reign to do them.

I also “fixed” the Miss S. Klein’s contest so that a young woman I was interesting in would win. She got the sash. But  I did not get the girl. I also earned the enmity of the HR Director who wanted her daughter, who worked in the Records Department, to win. This would not be the last time I pissed someone off in HR.


My favorite corporate job was managing the Purchasing Department for a bank. I was basically brought in to improve the poor internal audit ratings and reduce the expenditures for technology, office supplies, forms and other supplies. I also merged two operations and improved efficiencies. I accomplished those goals fairly quickly and was pretty much left alone in how I did my job. One of the benefits of doing my job was meeting with various sales representatives. These sales representatives tended to be female, young, stylishly dressed and very pretty. The parade of these young women through the corridors of the bank to my office made me the envy of my male counterparts. One of my friends had asked me to set up a date with one of the women. The best I could do was set up an appointment so he could discuss copier needs for his area.  I made it a rule not to accept lunch invitations or socialize after work with anyone so no one could accuse me of being unduly influenced.

When I was offered a position in Marketing and leaving the Purchasing Department, I did agree to have lunch with one of the sales reps who I did business with. I enjoyed conversations with her. She was a bit flirtatious but it was the 1980’s and I was often amused. At the lunch, she wanted to show me pictures of her recent trip to one of the islands. I leafed through the pictures which were mostly beach scenes and her in a bathing suit. Until I reached one picture ,,, she was topless on the beach by a bar holding a drink. I reddened. She noticed my reaction and inquired with a smile, “What do you think?” I slowly handed the pictures back and smiled, “Wow those were big…the drinks I meant.”


There are those people in life who cannot hold a job. And then there are people like me where a job can’t hold them. I got bored easily. I could never perform a job well where I did the same things every day. I was very poor, especially in my early career, of promoting myself. I felt that doing a great job was sufficient for moving ahead and getting appropriately compensated. Unfortunately I found out that many of my managers took credit for things I accomplished. I’ve given this piece of advice to those who are working, “to promote yourself within a company, promote yourself well outside it. Create your own personal brand.”


Picture above is me with Tere Hoyt Chattin. I worked with some very smart and great people. Tere is at the top of my list.

Lonesome Loser (1973-1976)

With so much depressing current news and future prospects, I took a look back and recollected some past memories culled from entries from my Journals. These entries covered the time I was finishing up college till the day I met my wife, Christine. I was very awkward socially as these entries will show. The italics after the journal entries represent my current thoughts, clarifications and observations.

Saturday, July 21, 1973

Anne and I saw the musical comedy Annie, Get Your Gun at the Camden County Music Fair. I enjoyed the show greatly and would probably like to see another show soon. (Anne was a co-worker and student at Rutgers. We dated during the summer of 1973. I mishandled the relationship and still feel guilt after 45+ years that I did not end the relationship better.)

Saturday, September 14, 1974

I visited Rutgers on Thursday. I saw Linda Levy, Mike Angelini and Pat Colacci, who I made a tennis date for. I miss going to school. I did sign up to take up the aikido at Pennsauken High night school. (I worked in Camden at an office at Broadway and Market so I would pop over at Rutgers to see friends. I learned to play tennis with Patty.)

Tuesday, September 17, 1974 

Work was slow today. Limongelli gave us our monthly reviews. He rated me “excellent” in my Units and for the respect I get from my fellow employees. (Limongelli was my first manager in the corporate world. I got off to a great start. Sadly I would not have such great relations with many corporate managers in the rest of my career)

Thursday, November 21, 1974

Saw Fred Abbate on Monday. He suggested that I attempt law school in the near future. (Fred Abbate was a teacher I very much respected. Very smart guy! I had thought about being a lawyer but I did not have the energy, money or drive to attend law school.)

Saturday, February 1, 1975

I got up at 11:15 AM and listened to records till noon. I picked up a newspaper and had hot dogs for lunch. Caught the first half of the North Carolina State – Maryland game. Then went to the Pemberton – Pennsauken wrestling match. Dinner at five. Went to the Cherry Hill Mall and Two Guys for some shopping. Had my second dinner at Bonanza (Flounder platter). Home at eight. Watched TV – – mostly the St. Joe’s – Vermont game. (I lead a very dull life.)

Monday, February 17, 1975

I can’t believe it! I weigh 160 pounds!! The last time I weighed myself I was 145 pounds. ( I was very skinny through college.  (I weight a bit more than 160 lbs. today)

June 19, 1975

I went bike riding and to the movies (Return of the Pink Panther) with Pat Colacci. (Typical date with me. I probably took her to Winston’s for dinner too.)

June 25, 1975

Today I had lunch with Betty. Betty is the CBA operator with a sexy voice. Due to my connivance and Janice’s help, I got to meet her. When I first met her, neither of us knew what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. She was fairly attractive and had a great personality. We ate at “The Office” and then she came up with the big bombshell. Betty was married!! She asked me if it made any difference. She’s unhappily married and looking to get out. I am not going to mess with a married girl, unhappy or not… (I was in the midst of setting up a date with Betty when she asked me to move our proposed date back till 8 p.m. I asked why so late and she admitted that was the time her husband was at work. I really was looking for a steady girlfriend so this was not going to work out.)

October 4, 1975

Last night, Allison Steve, Sandra and I ate pizza and talked. I do find that I like Allison. She’s cute, sincere, a good conversationalist and she doesn’t put on airs. Allison had also suggested that I grow a mustache. (My sister Sandra put the kibosh on any romance between Allison and I. Sandra did not like me hitting on her friends and she had a few that I was interested in.)

October 15, 1975

Went to Kaminski’s on Saturday night. Steve and I sat with Marianne Adamson and her friend Debbie. (Steve was my long time friend. But I had poor results setting him up with women I knew. The most notable was a very attractive woman who had worked with me and Steve met at one of the disco’s. On Steve’s behalf, I called her and mentioned Steve’s interest in her. She paused and then said that she would go out with him but Steve could not get interested in her. I asked, “Why not?” She replied, “Because I am getting married in four weeks.”)

Monday, May 31, 1976

Today was great! I went to a picnic with Jerry Murtha a few of his friends. Mostly it was couples with their kids. I played horseshoes and softball. While at the picnic, I met Chrissy and if I say so myself, I went right after her. Jerry informs me that Chrissy seems to like me and since I have her phone number and address, things look good. (First date and time with my wife of almost 43 years. Very, very lucky to have met her. Jerry was a co-worker of mine and the matchmaker. My chasing days were over!)


As I write, the Dow has plunged to 19898 and the S&P to 2398. Currently there are 8700 reported cases of coronavirus in the United States. Watching the evening news, there are increasing signs of panic. People who need tests and can’t get them. Lines of cars stretched miles as they await testing at mobile test sites. Streets are empty. Little traffic even in New York City. I turned on my cam for Times Square last night and noted the empty streets. Broadway is dark and restaurants are closed.

Some ruminations:


I bet there is a think group or collection of scientists and medical people who have a very good estimate of how far this virus will spread and how many people will become infected, become seriously ill and die. I also bet that people running the Federal government and state governments also know and are circumspect with their knowledge as to not create any additional panic.


Historians (if they are still around 10 years from now) will find that widespread mistakes and poor judgment led into millions of people dying and hundreds of millions of people being infected with the coronavirus. Currently there is little time and appetite to review the mistakes that have been recently made.  Another development they will cite is the lack of expertise and good judgment by many officials in the Trump administration.


I would nominate and elect the governor of a state who has displayed the best results and judgment in protecting the citizens of his/her state. Forget debates and speeches, we need the best man or woman to rebuild the country and the economy. Joe Biden is not up to it. Trump certainly isn’t either.


What will the level of panic be when test results show millions of U.S. citizens infected? When bodies lie outside nursing homes and morgues? When grocery shelves are empty as supply chains fail? When celebrities and other famous people die? When banks fail and ATMs don’t work?


I feel like I’m living through the story of the 1959 movie On the Beach starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. In the movie, nuclear war has wiped out most of the world and the radiation clouds are approaching Australia where survivors wait grimly for the bitter end. “There is still time, brother.”

Zero Interest Rates, Zero Confidence

Disclaimer: I am not an economist nor possess any special knowledge of economics or finance.

As I write: the number of coronavirus infections worldwide is 169,552. 6,516 people worldwide have died. In the United States, approximately 3485 people have been infected with coronavirus. 65 people in the United States have died. Widespread testing has not taken place in the United States so the infection rate numbers are expected to rise dramatically.

The Dow Jones average is 23,185 or about a 21.5% drop from its high in February. The S&P is 2711 and has declined 20.1% from its high in February.

The federal reserve has reduced interest rates to 0%.

The following analysis represents my thinking and should not be used as a guide for investing etc.

What does this interest rate cut mean?

  1. It is the last remaining bullet in the Fed arsenal and intended to bolster the faltering stock market and economy, as I indicated in the summary above, Both indices have dropped over 20% since their highs last month. Many financial experts are expecting another 20-25% drop given the projected rise of the coronavirus infections and further disruptions to businesses and the U.S. economy in general. There are some financial analysts insisting that the stock market will come roaring back by the end of the year and recover much of its 2020 losses. I doubt it. One also needs to see the rate of recovery accomplished in China and Europe. If you have pulled out of the stock market and are now in cash, you are very limited as to how you can earn a return.
  2. Reflects the politicization of the Fed. President Trump has insisted on lower interest rates and just yesterday threatened to remove Chairman Powell from his job. The president is ever mindful that the November election is less than eight months and how a recession will adversely affect his chances of being reelected. Trump has done a very poor job of communicating what measures need to be taken and has miscommunicated the severity and urgency of this emergency. I would not be shocked that Trump would not be re-nominated as the GOP candidate if the country experiences higher than projected infections and death within the next four months. Seniors and retired people (part of the Trump base) will be panicked when their investment funds settle to significant losses.
  3. Trump’s priorities are investors and stock prices. He is leaving the dirty work of dealing with managing the pandemic and health issues to state governors and local communities. He has no choice. Trump has no bench of competent leaders or administrators to guide his actions. His “by the seat of his pants” decisions on travel bans have angered our allies and American citizens caught in Europe.
  4. Reflects the realization that the coronavirus emergency is not a two week or one month issue. There are no quick fixes and this virus will not disappear overnight. It is going to have a bad long term effect on the economy, corporations, small businesses and workers.
  5. Confirmation that the economy is not well and that strong measures were needed to prop it up. Seems obvious to me that many businesses are going to require bail outs in order to survive if the length of the coronavirus bands continue past May. Due to lower sales and cash flow issues, businesses will be forced to access available lines of credit creating capital and risk management concerns for banks and financial institutions. Airlines and the cruise industries are looking at 3-6 months minimum of travel dislocations and cancellations. Regrettably individuals who will become unemployed will also be accessing their available credit card lines of credit but they will not be receiving any bailout money from the government other than temporary unemployment insurance.

Stock Market Graph.jpg

6. The country is seeking a hero, someone who displays competence, communication skills and leadership. Don’t be surprised if the next serious Presidential candidate comes from a governor who protects his state and ensures that the necessary medical care and resources are available. (Cuomo from NY??)


What You Don’t Know May Hurt You

Many experts, professionals and officials communicate in two ways. First, they tell you what they want you to know. Second, they don’t tell you or they lie and obfuscate what you need to know. The latter form of non-communication may be the most important as it often hides what is critical information regarding motive, fact and truth so you can respond accordingly.

The Only Thing We Have to Fear…

“I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. I 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1933

In my lifetime, I have experienced events that made me fearful. The first one that I recall was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. I was ten years old. I remember that we were on the brink of war with the Soviet Union. At school, we were all instructed on how to get under our desks, cover our heads and close our eyes. I believe there was a CONELRAD system which also provided an early warning if missiles were being fired. I remember they tested air raid sirens as part of the rehearsal. Fortunately we were led by a very smart president, John F. Kennedy and the crisis passed.

I have experienced stock market crashes (1987, 2008-2009), hurricanes with landfalls in New Jersey, urban riots (Camden), 9/11, and unemployment. Personally I have survived cancer scares for myself and my wife. I don’t like apocalyptic horror stories but I feel like I am in one.

That being said, I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced the type of chronic fear related to this coronavirus pandemic. Some of it may be due to my age and my susceptibility if I should be infected with the virus. This is so different. I don’t see solutions. I don’t see a quick end to this disaster. A lot of my fear and discomfort comes from factors other than my vulnerability.

The United States government and in particular the Trump administration have done a horrible job of communicating the status of the pandemic, the number of people infected and what steps are being taken to ensure the safety of the citizens of the United States. I think the Trump administration has made it a priority to focus on the effects to the economy.  To hell with people, “how do we both prop up the stock market and the Dow?” Where are the tests that people need to take? That should be the priority.

This is obviously a crisis that needs to be adequately addressed by scientists and medical personnel. Instead we have politicians literally falling all over themselves to politicize this catastrophe. This is a time when we urgently need smart and responsible leadership. Regrettably over the past month, I have seen no one with the credibility, leadership and communication skills to provide confidence to the public.

The media has also done a poor job. They are doing more to frighten people than they are to responsibly inform us of latest developments. I am tired of watching news conferences provided by local government officials and health agencies each time an individual is infected. They keep urging the public to remain calm but they do a very poor job of answering questions and providing guidance as to what the public may expect. Many officials appear reluctant to speak candidly and honestly about what they know.

Lord knows we desperately need a Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Unfortunately we are saddled with a Donald Trump and his administration that appears clueless on how to manage this crisis. My sense is that we have not even begun to experience the severity and breadth of this pandemic. We have no idea how long that we must remain vigilant. My sense is that the pandemic will be with us for a few years and that we need desperately for science to develop the necessary vaccine so that we can get back to living a routine life again.