Senescence: Round 5

Sorry Neil Young…but not only love can break your heart. 💔 (Disappointment can)

Even when a singer or musician dies, their music and songs are their cryogenic legacies keeping them alive.

Despite getting much older, the shadow of the young shy boy I once was still walks besides me…

Age I feel when I play pickleball: 35. Age I feel when I stop playing pickleball: 69.

Most people have two versions of their life story. The first version is the highly edited story they wish to communicate to friends, associates and family. The second version is the unedited story they occasionally retrieve and reflect by and for themselves.

As one ages in the party of life, one may feel like an uninvited guest… events and conversation swirl around and not with you as you blend into the tapestry as a monochromatic spectator.

Maybe the best advice for marriage that I have read: “Choose a wife rather by your ear than your eye.” (English proverb)

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya from Pexels

What quickened my pulse (1972): thump-thump of bouncing basketball on a court
What quickens my pulse (2022): thwack and pop of pickleball hitting a paddle.

When having to choose between an old movie or TV show that I viewed and really enjoyed or a promising new movie or TV show that I might enjoy, I usually opt for the former.

Stupidity continues to spread faster than omicron in this country. Stupidity offers many variants and there is no proven vaccine, not even a high dose of education.

NFL = WWE
In professional wrestling, Vince McMahon largely directs which wrestler (or entertainer) will “go over” and win. Now we are hearing allegations that owners of pro football teams in Miami and Cleveland have directed their coaches to lose games in order to improve their positions in upcoming drafts. pro wrestling is defined as “entertainment” as the outcomes are scripted and pre-determined. Is pro football different?

If you are a sports bettor, do you worry less about the performance of a team’s Quarterback or focus more on the competitive mindset and financial status of the team owner?

2022 China Winter Olympics Game = 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics Game
These Olympics weren’t so much sports events as propaganda displays for the promotions of Messrs. Hitler and Xi. The screams of repressed Jews and Muslim Uighurs are drowned out by the cheers and applause for the athletes.

Stock market is largely driven by narratives (agree with Professor Bob Shiller) less on fundamentals, data and financial results. For many companies, the role of the CFO has taken a back seat to the Director of Communications and Media.

Observations that I have read and found worthy of sharing…

Having been retired for about three years, I look back on my “career” in various positions as defining a job as an inconvenient interruption between weekends. Phil from Philadelphia (comment on NYT article Public Displays of Resignation: Saying ‘I Quit’ Loud and Proud)

“To keep Trump and his epigones away from high office, it isn’t enough to have the moral high ground. It’s like something Adlai Stevenson supposedly said once when a voter told him that every thinking person was on his side. “I’m afraid that won’t do,” he replied. “I need a majority.” Democracy needs a majority.” (Bret Stephens NYT Covid 3.0, Biden 2.0 and Trump Number …1/10/22)

Why I Dislike Watching NFL Football

Total TV Time to Watch Game: 200 Minutes

Total plays 100 (e.g. Eagles vs. Washington)

Average Time of each play: 05 seconds

Action viewed: 100 x 05 seconds = 20 minutes

10% of watching the game relates to action on the field

Average 25 commercials or more per quarter or over 100 commercials per game (many sponsoring gambling)

My Favorite Books for 2021

I am a voracious reader. This year I have read 64 books so far and I will probably read another 2-3 books by year end. I tend to be picky as to what I read and I am somewhat reluctant to recommend books  to others given my “eclectic” tastes. Over 80% of what I read is non-fiction though I did recommend two fiction books that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Here are my Top 10 books of 2021 and two extra recommendations..

I have read many of the Trump presidency books. I find that the one written by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa is the best. Peril also covers the candidacy and early administration of Joe Biden and the comparison between the Trump and Biden administration is compelling. I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker is also excellent and the title is self explanatory as to the story within the book. Most of the book details Trump’s failure with managing the Covid pandemic.

1940: FDR, Wilkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—the Election Amid the Storm by Susan Dunn documents the leadership, judgment and foresight of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the year before we entered World War II. Many Americans wished to remain isolationist and did not want to support Great Britain even as its cities were attacked by German bombers. Wendell Wilkie was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for President in 1940. Wilkie ran an unconventional campaign but unlike many Republicans today accepted the results of the election and supported FDR’s policies about the impending war.

Corruption, bad judgment, mismanagement, suicides, deviant behavior, treachery and Donald Trump, all this and more in Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction. This is a business book that reads like a novel, a huge international bank plagued by scandals.

If you are an Eagles fan, you will thoroughly enjoy Ray Didinger’s Finished Business. Lots of great stories about players, owners and coaches. If you are a basketball fan, Three Ring Circus by Jeff Pearlman about the Los Angeles Lakers team from 1996-2004 is very entertaining and provides some great insights into the rocky relationship between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Amazing how a very dysfunctional team was so successful. For baseball fans, October 1964 by David Halberstam is a bit of a dated book but an excellent read. It covered the 1964 seasons of the New York Yankees (with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yoga Berra) and the St Louis Cardinals (Bob Gibson, Tim McCarver, Stan Musial). Interesting personal portraits of many of the players were provided. Phillies fans, take note, the Phillies collapse towards the National League pennant is documented!

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher about a crotchety, sarcastic Creative Writing teacher Jason Fitger was very funny. I would keep my wife awake with my laughter as I read the book in bed. Maybe the Fitger character reminded me of someone else who did not suffer fools gladly in his corporate life? I enjoyed the adventurous tales of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell. Interesting stories of the Wild West beyond the fight at the OK Corral.

The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell was an uncomfortable story. It detailed the thinking and strategies about how to close the wars against the Germans and the Japanese. There were two lines of thought. One was to bomb military and manufacturing targets primarily. Second, bomb population centers and destroy the morale of citizens. The decision on whether to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki also created moral dilemmas.

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win by Maria Konnikova is primarily a story about a woman learning to play poker and also compete (and win) in big money tournaments. The bigger picture contains the lessons that she learns about psychology, luck, focus, risk and control that are useful as to how we conduct our lives, careers, finances and relationships.

Two extra recommendations:

Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo (Title is self explanatory. I did not agree with some of her analysis but this book was very well presented and written.)

Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig. Eye opening expose about the management and performance of the Secret Service. Interesting anecdotes about some of our Presidents and their interactions with the Secret Service.

With Apologies to Red Smith and Frank Deford

The more rabid the sports fan, the less rational the woman or man.

I have a personal abhorrence to all of the ads on the Internet, commercial television and other media promoting gambling websites. Online gambling is nicotine for sports fans.

NFL ratings are up 17% this season. The increased ratings are attributed to early attractive matchups plus fans back in the stands.  I would add that increased interest in sports gambling has also supported a ratings boost. All the pregame shows feature betting odds and discussions about points spreads and over/under totals.

Success in most college sports is not won on the court or football field but in living rooms of recruited high school students.

Stephen A Smith : sports commentary = Tucker Carlson : political commentary

Not very many sports commentators that I would stop and listen to but I’d stop for Tony Kornheiser and Ray Didinger who have my respect for their candor, research and insight.

Very few professional athletes leave “while on top.” Rocky Marciano, John Elway and Peyton Manning come to mind. Most athletes, like too many boxers, stay too long. Muhammed Ali, Willie Mays and Joe Louis are three of the most tragic athletes who stayed too long.

I am a huge fan of Roger Federer. I admire him not only for his achievements and talents playing tennis but the class that he exhibits off the court as well.

I’m showing my age but I miss the voices, personalities and announcing of old time football announcers like Chris Schenkel, Ray Scott, Keith Jackson, Curt Gowdy, Pat Summerall and Lindsey Nelson. Many football announcers and analysts today are just “white noise” while watching a game.

As an 8 year old third grader I remembered coming home from school and turning on my black and white TV about 61 years ago to see Bill Mazeroski hit a walk off home run to win the World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Senescence: Round 4

A shower of passing thoughts and thunderous ruminations…

With apologies to Rodney, five jobs where you don’t get any respect: 

  1. Epidemiologist 
  2. Eagles football coach
  3. Governor of a largely populated state
  4. New host of Jeopardy
  5. 44th U.S. President

Summer is coming to a close. I won’t miss the heat, the humidity or the mosquitos. I will miss the early dawn sunrises and the late dusk sundowns.

On deeper reflection, I have lived through 70 summers, how many summers do I have left to enjoy?

The French showed more resistance in 1940 to the German invasion of their country than the anti-vaxxers have demonstrated to the invasion of covid in the United States.

Long running TV Talk Show in the 1960’s and 70’s that would not last 13 weeks today: Dick Cavett.(That’s no reflection on Cavett, it’s a reflection of our culture and the limited sophistication and education of today’s audiences).

RIP Markie Post. She was a beautiful distraction on one of my favorite comedies in the 1980s, Night Court.

Celebrity whose death affected me the most? John Lennon

Current Five Overrated Sports People and Events

  1. Pickleball ratings
  2. NBA Draft
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. The Process (not Embiid but the tanking by the 76ers)
  5. Sports Talk Shows (worst show is Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharp)

While I enjoyed the Gold medal victories of the U.S. Men and Women’s Basketball Teams in the Olympics, I became a fan of the 3 on 3 Women’s Basketball competition (also won by the U.S.)

Two late Summer 2021 Book Recommendations:

  1. The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis
  2. The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, A Temptation and The Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell

Another 1970 high school classmate passed away recently. My class had 481 students. Based on what I know, approximately 10% of my class has passed away in the 50 years since graduation. Given our stage in life now, it’s possible that 50% of us will die within the next 10 years.

Health, opportunity and time. The older we are, the less certain and smaller window to take advantage of them.

With possible apologies to W.C. Fields, I’d rather be living in Philadelphia than anywhere in Florida.

Senescence: Round 3

More reflections, thoughts, perspectives and broodings on being older. You can find earlier and similar posts here and here.

Old age: Current age + 10 years; Youth: Current age – 10 years.

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You  can only break my heart, once.

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The ratio of laughter to tears narrows as one ages.

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2:00 a.m. : (age 18) = 10:00 p.m. : (age 60+)

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The penultimate expression of acquired wisdom is when we value health over wealth.

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The value of what we don’t know > the value of what we do know.

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Britain’s greatest export was The Beatles.

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Baseball is this nation’s passed time.

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Picture by Keegan Houser (Pixels)

Many of our sweetest memories generally have a soundtrack playing in the recesses of our mind.

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Investing today is like playing a game at the carnival fair. You know the odds are stacked against you but the allure of winning a proverbial stuffed animal is too strong.

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I wish I had a penny for each time a person changed the channel or fast forwarded a program on their remote or Roku. Within a day or two, I would be richer than Jeff Bezos.

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Mother’s and Father’s Day is “Memorial Day” for many of us.

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Our portals in time travel include old polaroid pictures, a yearbook and ticket stubs from a decades old concert or sporting event.

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Do we ever really “grow up”?

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Not sure that this applies to many 1960’s era football stars, but Jim Brown definitely could have played into today’s NFL.

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In addition to Medicare and Social Security, one of the unheralded benefits for seniors are naps.

Early Spring Muses

The most impressive NCAA college basketball player this year is a woman, Paige Bueckers who plays for Connecticut. Only a freshman, she seems to be a better all around game than Diana Taurasi, who I had considered the best women’s college basketball player that I have seen.

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With the announcement of the resignation of Roy Williams at North Carolina, the five best college basketball coaches in my lifetime:

  1. John Wooden
  2. Mike Krzyzewski
  3. Dean Smith
  4. Roy Williams
  5. Jay Wright (this choice may be a bit premature but I wanted a Big 5 coach on my list)

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I would not need to sit on a jury for an hour, a day, a month, two months or however long the trial of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd takes. I had the correct verdict figured out in nine minutes and 29 seconds.

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Many years ago I bought and read a book by Lawrence Shames and Peter Barton titled Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived. This book reflects the thoughts, actions and philosophies of Barton, a successful businessman who was dying from cancer in his early 50s. Barton began his book,  “There’s not one thing I regret or wish I could redo. There’s not one thing I wished I done, and didn’t. I’m contented and fulfilled.

Barton died at age 51.

Here are some sections of the book I have underlined as constant reference as I get older…

The stories of our lives have a due date, like books at the library.

A problem that can be fixed by money… is not a problem.

If I have anything at all to teach about life, it probably comes down to these two simple but far-reaching notions: 

Recognizing the difference between a dumb risk and a smart one, and 

Understanding when you need to change direction, and having the guts to do it.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t have a bad day for the rest of my life. If someone was wasting my time, i’d excuse myself and walk away. If a situation bothered me or refused to get resolved, I’d shrug and move on. I’d squander no energy on petty annoyances, poison no minutes with useless regret.

I would only work for someone I thought was wildly smart.

Duration, for him (Barton), is no longer quite the same as it is for most of us; he sees time not in terms of days or hours but in episodes of energy, bursts of attention.

There’s just one final thing I want to say. Probably it’s how everyone wants to be remembered. But that’s OK. I’ve said from the start that I make no claim of being special; I’m just one more person dying, revisiting his life. I think my father would’ve said the same thing, in the same words, If he had had the time. It’s simply this: I really tried. I did my best.”

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Coincidently I have just finished a book by William R. Irvine titled the Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer and More Resilient. I reommend the book. Barton epitomizes the stoic philosophy that Irvine promotes. Barton comments on his acceptance of his diagnosis and prognosis, “My frame of mind was something I could still control,. Doing so would be a sort of victory I was not accustomed to valuing – – a totally inward, private victory – – but a legitimate accomplishment nevertheless. I resolved to control my own discomfort, to rise above them if I possibly could. In doing so, I came to understand the deep truth that, while pain may be unavoidable, suffering is largely optional.

Recommended Reading

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself and Win by Maria Konnikova (With help, a plan and a lot of preparation, a woman writer learns to play professional poker and beats the pros. Excellent psychological insights on mastering poker and life.True story!)

Three Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman (I really enjoy Pearlman’s sports books and this one is really good with a lot of interesting inside stories. You don’t have to be a Lakers fan to enjoy this book about a dysfunctional group of players and egos who manage to win world titles.)

Gods at Play: An Eyewitness Account of Great Moments in American Sports by Tom Callahan (Reporter’s memoir of covering great athletes like Muhammed Ali, Pete Rose, Oscar Robertson, Roberto Clemente, Arthur Ashe and others. His story about Bob Cousy and how Cousy took care of his sick wife was very moving.)

The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media by Harold Holzer ( a very long book with interesting anecdotes of Presidents vs. the Press going back to Washington; chapter on Trump is very interesting):

Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neuman and WeWork by Reeves Wiedeman (business book that reads like a novel)

Epitaph by Maria Doris Russell (Historical novel about Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Tombstone. Great read!)

Muses on a Cold Winter Morning

My writing efforts resemble my pickleball game performances. Brief flashes of brilliance mixed with plenty of unforced errors and faults.

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The experience of watching televised college and pro sports during Covid is like viewing a sitcom without a laugh track.

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Parler: politics = Pornhub: love

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So who stands “in the dock” for the various atrocities and abuses to our democracy and laws committed in the past four years? A number of Trump sycophants, enablers and officials, in a bid to salvage their reputations and careers, finally bailed out from the “Herrenvolk.” Nikki Haley, Bill O’Reilly, Betty DeVos, Elaine Chao, Mitch McConnell, John Kelly, John Bolton, Mike Pence and many other Trump supporters are fleeing from Trump like Melania avoids child refugee camps.

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Rush Limbaugh’s receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom is as appropriate as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences awarding Bonzo its Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Professional sports championships are generally decided off-season and by General Managers and less by players. College championships are generally decided in recruiting, less on the field or court. 

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How Trumpism mimics the coronavirus: (1) Can damage or kill the host (U.S.)  if untreated or unopposed. (2) Moves quickly through the populace through spreader (campaign) events. (3) Spurs denials by naysayers as to its existence and dangers. (4) Adverse after effects continue for many months (years) after initial contagion. (4) Mutates frequently posing additional dangers.  (5) Remedied by inoculation (election results).

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The biggest editors when many write are psychological, concerns for acceptance and approval plus the fear of speaking one’s mind and upsetting a career and reputation. How freeing to be retired and of advanced age when those editors are not as binding! While I still value the opinions of others, it’s more important that I move ideas and thoughts from my brain to screen, while I can.

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Tell me how many books and what you you read on a topic  and I can tell you how seriously I value your opinions on that topic.

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As I get older what has tragically declined faster than my physical and mental capabilities has been my decline in trust for most people to simply do the right things, especially when it comes to acting in the best interests of the nation, community or fellow man. 

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My Predictions for 2021 (12% Chance of Being 100% Right)

Everyone makes predictions though most people don’t document or publish them. People make predictions as to if and when it will rain, when the mail will arrive, whether the driver with the right turn signal on will actually make a right turn etc. One bases their lifestyle on spending based on their prediction of how the economy will do and the security of their job.

Many of my predictions are contingent on our progress or lack of regarding the Covid pandemic. Most “experts” are predicting that things will normalize by late Spring or early Summer. They are counting on most people getting the vaccine and a herd immunity taking place. I am not that confident given how so called experts whether they are doctors, scientists, Fox News hosts, U.S. Presidents and epidemiologists have not been very accurate in their projections and timetables so far.

I’ve polished my crystal ball and here are my 2021 predictions: 

photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas
  1. The vaccination rollout will be slower than projected and many (maybe most) adults will not get the vaccination. In addition, I think we are in for more unpleasant surprises and strains with the virus. I think that the rate of infections and deaths will drastically decrease by the beginning of summer 2021 but that another 600,000-700,000 American lives will be lost by the end of 2021 bringing the Covid death total in the United States to over 1 million.
  2. Next huge medical challenge is addressing patients experiencing long term effects from Covid infection affecting their quality of life. 
  3. People will still be reluctant to travel. Cruise line industries will resume voyages in fits and starts beginning mid summer 2021. Hotels and tourist destinations may regain 50-60% of anticipated traffic in summer 2021.
  4. Republicans will win Senate seats in Georgia even if they have to contest it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Another two years of legislative gridlock guaranteed!
  5. The stock market has factored in a full or almost full recovery from Covid. Expect some bumps along the way! What if the vaccine does not deliver the expected immunity or the number of adults getting the vaccination falls below 50%? Will people who got the vaccine go into stores, restaurants or other public places with those who refuse to get vaccinated? Hoping for a 5-7% increase in the S&P by year’s end but will not be surprised if it dives by those percentages.
  6. Expect some unusual drama or disturbances around January 20, Joe Biden’s inauguration.
  7. Contingent if Joe Biden is sworn in, expect that his three main priorities are organizing the fight against Covid relying heavily on Dr. Fauci and scientists; rebuilding alliances with our friends in Canada, France, Mexico and Germany; and providing additional aid and stimulus to small businesses and individuals suffering from the pandemic.
  8. No tax increases for anyone this year.
  9. A plethora of books, documentaries, articles and speeches will begin about the Trump presidency. Many Trump appointees, spokespeople and supporters will try to distance themselves from Trump to save their own reputations, careers and credibility. Their efforts at redemption will largely fail.
  10. Kansas City Chiefs will win Super Bowl again.
  11. Gonzaga is the best NCAA Men’s basketball team as I write. However they won’t win the NCAA title. Expect an “underdog” with 7-8 losses to come in and surprise.
  12. Expect limited seatings (30-50% capacity) for sporting and other entertainment events starting in Spring 2021.
  13. Eagles won’t trade Carson Wentz. Wentz will start for the Eagles in the 2021-22 season.
  14. Expect a fourth or fifth place seed for the 76ers in the NBA Eastern Division playoffs. If Kevin Durant stays healthy, it will be the Nets vs. The Lakers in the Finals.
  15. Crystal ball looks to a good playoff run by the Flyers; a dismal season for the Phillies.
  16. There will be more credible sightings and documentation of UFOs.
  17. Pickleball will continue to rise in popularity as more 30-40 year olds play. The drop serve rule will be permanent as it creates more drama (and aces) around the serve and return. 
  18. Pickleball singles will increase in popularity and singles matches will be showcased on telecasts and streaming services. Tyson McGuffin vs. Ben Johns is to pickleball singles what Borg-McEnroe was to tennis. South Jersey player Frank Anthony Davis is very competitive.
  19. The effects of quarantining schools and students due to Covid will be felt for decades. How many careers for scientists, entrepreneurs and researchers were lost due to the interruptions in education?