Sage

While perusing through today’s headlines, I may be reminded of some ancient or recent adage that reflects an appropriate understanding or analysis to the news as shown below:

News HeadlinesWisdom and Analysis
Health officials make their final pleas for holiday caution as coronavirus cases spike. 
Washington Post

Weekend air travel hits pandemic-era record, despite health officials’ pleas to stay home
CNN
“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
George Carlin
Man leaves $3K tip for a beer as restaurant closes for virus 
AP
Wishing good, merely, is a lukewarm charity; but doing good is divine. 
James Lendall Basford 
Fresno bishop warns Catholics against stem cell-based COVID vaccines, including Pfizer’s
Fresno Bee
All religions promise a reward for excellence is of the will or heart, but none for excellences of the head or understanding.
Schopenhauer

Is Playing Pickleball Safe Now?

Is playing Pickleball less safe now than it was in the summer? Given the change in weather and new wave of Covid 19 infections, what should we be doing to ensure safe and healthy play?

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, epidemiologist, scientist, government official, CDC employee or pandemic expert. The conclusions and opinions are mine based on limited information, data and just a few hours of thought and analysis. Like many other topics today, there is a lot of misinformation and this post is my personal effort to sort out my alternatives and plan of action.

Overview: There are approximately 2,300 members in the South Jersey Pickleball Group. Recently there were a few members that tested positive for coronavirus. These members had recently played at various pickleball venues and obviously this created some concerns within the pickleball community. While there have been reported incidents of coronavirus infections nationwide spreading at indoor pickleball facilities, there appears to be few, if any infection outbreaks of coronavirus from playing outdoors. 

The infection rates within the State of New Jersey and specifically Camden County have risen dramatically the past few weeks. In Camden County, more than 15,000 cases of infection have been reported since the start of the pandemic. This represents about 3% of the Camden County population. Gloucester County has approximately 7,200 cases, representing about 2.5% of their population.

If we use 3% as the mean, as many as 70 South Jersey Pickleball members could be projected to have already caught the coronavirus. So no one should be surprised in a group as large as ours, there may be some reported cases. (As an offset, most members of the South Jersey Pickleball group are obviously very health conscious and many are retired so they are not exposed to potential workplace initiated infections.)

Risk Management Considerations:

Many in our pickleball community are in a high risk age group (65+) related to complications from Coronavirus. Younger players generally have less to fear if infected but they still need to exert vigilance and prevention for themselves and when playing with or around older players. Older players too must be diligent when playing with or around younger players.

Exposure to many players. If you play golf or tennis, generally you play with three other people for the morning or session. Some Pickleball Meetups had 50 or more people signed up so this meant in a two or three hour period, you could be partnered or playing with 12-20 different people depending on the available players at your skill level. (See chart). If you play 3 or more times a week, you can be playing with 40 or more different people creating added potential exposure or risk.

Exposure to players who are visiting or returning from vacations from “hot infection” states. Pickleball players (usually) are a very friendly group. We don’t check IDs on the court. Hence we don’t quarantine players from Florida, South Carolina etc playing on South Jersey or local courts. Regrettably as I write, just about every state is a “hot infection” state.

Exposure to different pickleballs. There are those balls you play with each game and those balls you toss back to another court when their ball rolls on your court.

Recommendations:

These measures appear to be prudent given the colder weather and the rising rates of Coronavirus infections nationwide and within the South Jersey/Philadelphia area. Hopefully by Spring 2021, vaccines will have begun to be distributed and pickleballers can return to an almost normalized routine.

Play within small groups of players (4-8) to minimize exposure. Various groups are organizing and using the TeamReach app to schedule events. If, by chance, a player displays symptoms or tests positive, TeamReach can serve as a communication and tracking tool.

Ideally one should play with those who are responsible and considerate of the health and safety of other players. These also should be people who you can have fun and be social with.

Players who play exclusively outside may be safer to play with than players who have recently or are playing indoors.

If you are an older player, it may be safer to play with people within your own age group. Most younger players have families and children and are much less likely to be able to isolate due to career and family responsibilities.

Playing outdoors appears to be more safer (not foolproof) than playing indoors. If you are deciding to play indoors, make sure that the facility and employees are practicing the same due diligence and health risk mitigating efforts as you are.

Maintain social distancing and wear a mask while resting or waiting to play again. (I don’t think I have seen those precautions taken at all at any of the venues I have played. I think all of us were lulled by the great weather.)

Don’t handle someone else’s paddles. (This generally happens when moving paddles along a fence or queue to create space.)

If you are feeling sick or have a fever, don’t play!! (whether it’s outdoors or indoors). This is not the best time to try to play through an illness.

From Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (Hill Street Blues), one last piece of advice “Let’s be careful out there!”

Day after Election Day (10:15 a.m.)

I don’t know yet who won the Presidential election but I know who lost, the American people. The country is even more divided 50-50 than projected before. There is no mandate to move one way or the other.

No political landslide this cycle, more like a political mud-slide.

I view political poll results as credible as readings from a crystal ball or investments ideas from a broker. Pollsters have had 72 years since they screwed up the 1948 Dewey-Truman race to improve their collection and screening of data and conduct accurately a snapshot of people’s opinions. Big fails in both national and state polls this election!

Another waste of time are political debates. They rarely move the partisan needle. Trump’s first debate with Biden was a disaster as his conduct was embarrassing. But obviously it did not hurt him in the election. Political debates are like pro wrestling matches – – ballyhooed, choreographed and the results don’t matter.

Democrats ran two very qualified Senate candidates against weakened Republican incumbents and lost decisively, despite polls showing tight races. Theresa Greenfield lost to Joni Ernst in Iowa and Jaime Harrison lost to Lindsay Graham in South Carolina. (Coincidentally to my point above, Ernst and Graham had very poor debate performances.) Republican Susan Collins, who appeared to be in an underdog in her Senate race in Maine, may hold her seat.

Not that half this country’s voters care but there were 1,130 new deaths due to coronavirus yesterday with 92,660 new infection cases.

Thought Leaders

I find that many of the disagreements that I have with people on politics and current events has to do with our respective sources of information. Many of my Facebook friends rely upon memes (that I consider social media graffiti) Fox News ideologues and political blogs with dubious reporting and analysis when they attempt to muster up an opinion or viewpoint.

I’d like to offer these friends some other alternatives for information. My list includes thought leaders, people with genuine credibility and expertise in their fields. Most have written books (not memes), are articulate and have a track record of achievement. These are people whose opinions and viewpoints I follow. I may not agree with all their opinions but I respect their ideas and arguments.

Politics:

Maureen Dowd

Tom Friedman

Fareed Zakaria

Pete Buttigieg

Tom Nichols

Ian Bremmer

Paul Krugman

Dave Pell

Gary Trudeau

Maggie Haberman

Mike Murphy

Historians

Jill Lepore

Jon Meacham

Doris Kearns Goodman

Kurt Andersen

Michael Beschloss

Religion

Karen Armstrong

Bart Ehrman

Sam Harris

Michelle Boorstein

Comedy/Satire

Chris Rock

Bill Maher

Stephen Colbert

Michelle Wolf

Jimmy Kimmel

Business/Tech

Scott Galloway

Kara Swisher

Malcolm Gladwell

Mark Cuban

Elon Musk

Emily Chang

Daniel Pink

Seth Godin

Economics/Finance

Robert Shiller

Nomi Prins

Andrew Ross Sorkin

Adam Tooze

Naseem Nicholas Taleb

Warren Buffett

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi from Pexels

Perfect Moments

Years ago, I read Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life by Eugene O’Kelly. O’Kelly was the CEO at KPMG who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died within three and a half months of the announcement. The book was primarily about the art of dying though O’Kelly did offer some advice about how to live. O’Kelly described his goal of pursuing Perfect Moments and Perfect Days. For example, he described having a four hour dinner, good wine and conversation with friends as a perfect moment.

So it got me to thinking, what are my “perfect moments?”

Here are a few of my perfect moments:

Unhurried dinner or lunch with friends in a quiet setting conversing lightly and laughing about the “old days”, memories, anecdotes, people, sports, politics etc.

Sitting by the ocean just watching the waves roll in, enjoying the sun and not allowing a care in the world to ruin the moment.

Sitting on my porch engrossed in a great book or story and losing track of time.

Listening to my music of my youth and allowing experiences, feelings and people to flow back into memory.

Any time with my wife.

Common Cents (12 Observations on Money)

I believe that every state should mandate a high school course teaching students personal financial management. Normally parents are expected to pass down their knowledge on this subject but just like sex education, the message does not always get passed or understood. Students would be taught the following lessons:

  • How and where to save money
  • Building an emergency cash fund
  • How to create a budget
  • How, when and where to apply for debt
  • How to maintain an excellent credit rating (FICO)
  • Principles of smart shopping (car, clothes, etc.)
  • Student loan programs for college (qualifications, terms, costs)
  • Paying personal Income and other taxes
  • Mortgages and Home Equity lending
  • Purchasing Insurances (car, renters, health, home)
  • Principles Of Investing (Stocks, Bonds, Gold)
  • Retirement Planning

In lieu of the course, this is the type of financial guidance I would offer young people about to graduate high school or college. These observations also apply to  those who are a bit older:

  1. For many young people, a university education may not be worth the costly tuition in terms of return of your investment, and like a new car leaving the dealership, may become a depreciating asset.
  2. Often the person most responsible for your financial success or failure is not your banker, your financial advisor, Jim Cramer or your accountant. It’s your spouse or life partner, so choose wisely!
  3. The same foolproof strategy applies to both successfully investing in the stock market and gambling in a casino: Luck 
  4. In investing, the only “sure thing” is that there is no sure thing.
  5. The best skills for financial management in business or personally are the abilities to first, create a workable budget and second, keep to the budget.
  6. Before retirement, your focus should be on stoking your retirement funds with contributions and a smart investment strategy. After retirement, you should be focused on your burn rate (how quickly and smartly you spend your retirement dollars). A controlled burn rate can mitigate shortfalls in your retirement strategy.
  7. The smartest career strategy in terms of financial independence is to transition from getting a paycheck (employee) to either issuing paychecks to your employees (as a business owner) or collecting receivables (as an entrepreneur)
  8. The most satisfying experiences are gained from, as a businessman, turning around a failing company and from as a caring person, turning around an individual who needed help and guidance.
  9. Buy lifelong experiences as opposed to buying things whose pleasure is transitory.
  10. The greatest investment of your time and energy should be in your health not your wealth.
  11. Despite their advertising, banks are not your friend or your “neighbor”. They are in business to make money off of you. They collect your deposits and pay you .01% interest while charging you 100+x more for interest if you borrow for a mortgage or car loan.
  12. You should be as dubious about the accuracy of the numbers on a corporate balance sheet as you would the age of an actress or the net worth of President Trump. 

Facebook Posts 2020

I write a variety of posts on Facebook including my observations on politics, current events, sports, business and life. Shown below are some recent posts. Many of my Facebook posts are written from emotion rather than reason. My comments are in italics.

Responding to  my friend Mike’s claim about the qualifications of Amy Comey Barrett for the Supreme Court…

Oh she is qualified, if you want to get rid of Obamacare. Oh she is qualified, if you want to get rid of Roe v. Wade. Oh she is qualified, If you want a judge who will protect corporations against the interest of consumers and smaller businesses. Mike, I’m not sure what papers you read or what your sources of information are. Trump about a week ago wanted to table any aid for consumers or businesses related to coronavirus until after the election. What changed his mind? The stock market!! By the way, Mike, can you tell me what Trump’s plan is to replace Obamacare? If you can, you are the only person in the United States who can. (10-13-20)

My comments about Mrs. Barrett’s nomination in general…

I guess the kindest thing that I can say about this hearing is to agree with Senator Klobuchar that it is a “sham.” We are conducting this hearing in the middle of an election that Trump will probably lose and in the middle of an epidemic where over 200,000 people have died and maybe another hundred thousand more will die before the end of 2020. When our priorities should be about helping businesses and individuals cope with the effects of this pandemic, we are witnessing the jamming of an unqualified nominee for purely political and ideological purposes. I laugh when I hear that this is an effort for pro life. Republicans don’t give a damn about the incredible mess that they have made of this country. Just watched Senator McConnell yesterday laughing in derision when his opponent in a debate cited all the deaths involved in the coronavirus. I am deeply ashamed of this country….(10-13-20)

My observations about Harris-Pence VP Debate

I think Kamala did a great job  but regrettably it will not change any votes.  Four years ago, I saw another woman basically clean the floor with her male opponent at three debates. (10-7-20

My observations about the over the top Trump-Biden debate:

I can’t watch this debate anymore! This is a joke. Biden should walk off the stage and let Trump talk to himself. (9-29-20)

An observation about the utility of meetings from my corporate life.

I’ve been retired for a few years from corporate life but I do not miss meetings. 95% of them were a waste of my time and unproductive. (8-21-20)

Ruminations as I walked during the first few weeks of the pandemic.

In lieu of pickleball, I now take long walks from my home into Merchantville. It is a very quiet journey. I pass very few cars and very few people. Playgrounds are empty. No kids playing in the streets. Sporadically, I will pass another walker or a jogger. Except for the pharmacies, there is no commerce in Merchantville. Streets in the business district are empty. Parking meters stand lonely. I wonder and worry how many of the small businesses like those in Merchantville will survive if they are unable to open within the next few months. (3-24-20)

Entertainment advice at the beginning of quarantine…

For all of us who may soon be quarantined, I recommend watching the original and reprise versions of The Thomas Crown Affair. Both movie versions are excellent.  I prefer the Steve McQueen – Faye Dunaway version based on this one scene. (Steve and Faye’s characters playing “seductive” chess)  Never realized that playing chess could be so seductive… (3-8-20)

ACB < RBG

Amy Coney Barrett has an impressive academic and career resume. She also appears to be a great mom and wife. She has also adopted two Haitian children and has a child with Down syndrome comprising her children of seven. She is articulate, young and smart. 

But I do not believe she should be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice…

There are four reasons why I would not want to see Mrs. Barrett confirmed.

First, she was nominated by Donald Trump. A President obviously has the right and obligation to nominate a qualified person for the Supreme Court. But Mr. Trump has the performance record of the ‘NFC East” in making Cabinet and other political appointments. Many have been a disaster because they were unqualified or misused their offices. So based on who is recommending her and on those who are supporting her, I have reservations about her being the best person for the job. 

Second, Merrick Garland. In 2016, Republicans chose not to act on his nomination to the Supreme Court even when it was announced in March 2016. Republican senators pushed back that the next President should have the opportunity to nominate the next Supreme Court justice. Most Americans, according to recent polls, agree that the selection of the next Supreme Court justice should be left to the winner of the November election. Given that the election is a month away, I would agree there should be no rush for this decision to be made given my third point below.

Third, Congress should be focused on one thing and that is helping Americans and small businesses to survive through the pandemic. I realize that many Republicans are fighting for their political lives but many Americans are literally fighting for their lives. Given the rise in pandemic rates and with winter approaching, Congress must focus on addressing national priorities not fighting ideological battles. This is a lifetime appointment and requires appropriate due diligence and deliberation.

Fourth, I was very young when John F. Kennedy addressed voters’ concerns about his Catholicism in 1960 and how it could affect his political decisions. JFK successfully convinced the electorate that his religious beliefs would not determine his policy directions. I’m not totally comfortable that Mrs. Barrett feels that way. I’m also not comfortable that Mrs. Barrett is part of a religion that promotes a pro-life agenda while having allowed tens of thousands of children to be abused by its clergy and then to maliciously lie and cover up the claims of abuse. There are already five Catholics on the current Supreme Court. I’d like to see some additional diversity in temperament, background, experience and perspective when it comes to a life time appointment. I would not mind seeing an atheist or agnostic judge (if a qualified one admits to it) than a religious one.

Irresponsible

Is Trump really sick or is this just a big hoax to gin up sympathy for his declining campaign?

How could he have walked out of the hospital without a doctor’s release or  permission to drive around the block?

More importantly, how could anyone in the administration including his Chief of Staff, Secret Service Director, Vice President etc. think that this was remotely an appropriate or good idea? They thought this was a good idea to reassure Americans of his health?

Does Trump and his family (wife, daughters, sons etc) have any consideration for the health and lives of people who surround him (Secret Service, medical, aides, staff members, donors, supporters etc) and their families?

Why can’t the press and the country get straight answers about his health, his treatment, his prognosis etc.?

Why haven’t the Republican leadership insisted that Trump sign over temporary Presidential powers to Pence?

Are there really 40% of the voters in this country who think he should be re-elected?