C-19 – Who is this guy?

I saw the C-19 term earlier on Trawler Forum, and I think I’m going to adopt it locally. I’m referring to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

I have many thoughts. And I’ve had several discussions today that have helped clarify things. It started with an early morning chat with a friend who I was very close to in my youth, and who is now an accomplished thought leader and business developer. I’ll call him David henceforth. And I’m hanging in Guelph with Samantha, Sarah and Kathleen. They provide perspective, comfort, and support as always.

The cruise ship thing is a done deal for me. I don’t need to obsess over the end. So I’m focused pretty much entirely on the virus now. The CCL puts have boosted my portfolio, and I laid down additional hedging about two weeks ago that I think protects me against the financial threats I see. They’re in lockstep with C-19 and this may well turn into a financial crisis in addition to being a health crisis. But there’s nothing more for me to do to there.

I want to describe where I come from on C-19. This is tough. I don’t operate like most folks. My perspective is idiosyncratic and largely self-formed. My twitter profile says I’m a pro-social hermit living on my boats. There’s a long back story, but I’ll try to be brief.

I used to work in data. Lots of it. Loved it. Spent 20 years with one data warehouse in the financial industry, from developer to end user to business ownership. Saw hundreds of millions of shareholder dollars spent supporting efforts to provide business leaders timely and meaningful metrics, and hence insights into their business. I have an undergraduate degree in computer science.

I’ve also made a habit all my life of surrounding myself with smart, thoughtful and generally level-headed people. Especially those whose experiences and perspective differ from mine. Samantha, my spouse of 30+ years, is probably the smartest person I know. She don’t operate like most folks either.

But when I say surround myself I mean it figuratively. My friends are few and scattered. I need very little social contact. I can happily spend days, weeks alone. Hence the hermit part. I’ve been involved in and welcomed into many communities, but have always resisted the pull towards the center. I’m a little too disjointed and intense for most folks, and am not big on assimilation. Hence my unique and self-formed opinions.

Pro-social? In an alternate universe I’d be a social science wonk. The most fascinating ideas I’ve tossed around (mostly internally!) in recent years are around technology and societal change. I continue to find interesting nuggets in history, geography, economics and political science. And I believe in good government and an informed and educated populace. I have followed US politics closely since I lived there almost 30 years ago.

I guess I should also offer up that I’ve lived in the US, Australia and New Zealand as well as Canada, where I was born. Over the past two years I have spent much of my time in the US. I’m a very proud Canadian, I support the current government, and I have confidence in leadership at all levels. I would identify as a Democrat were I to vote in the US. Hope that doesn’t slam any doors.

I got rid of broadcast television in the mid 1990s.

And that leads to perspective.

The outcome of the 2016 US election turned my world upside down, because I really believed for a long time afterwards that data and analytics – my world – had played a little recognized but significant part in Donald Trump’s victory. It also put up a few social barriers for me. I didn’t want to be a hater, and found the anti-Trump rhetoric that ramped up quickly overwhelming and disturbing. It’s really easy to get sucked into the fire.

So in response, I cocooned. I abandoned the personal arguments and debates and set out on my own to get some answers to what’s going on around us. It’s been an interesting trip so far.

My boat travel has been a key part of the process, allowing a wonderful local perspective across often diametrically opposed landscapes. You don’t really know New York City until you’ve followed the garbage and explored the ports in New Jersey. The last couple of years are documented here.

And the internet. Ahh, the internet. So full of promise… It more than anything else enables me to lead the life I do.  Like all things a double-edged sword.  I got pretty spooked in 2017. My challenge was perspective. I wanted a balanced, consistent view of the world.

My actions in 2017 are what I think gradually brought clarity. Essentially I went on a media lock down. I picked a small number of online social communities to hang out in, and settled on a handful of reputable major news providers. I spent a few months getting the right mix to establish a baseline, and it’s been largely unchanged since. For me the payoff since has been huge, just having a consistent daily diet of news and analysis through the last couple of years. We all need anchors, and I feel comfortable that mine is well set.

One more relevant piece of back story. I have a history of following some types of disasters pretty obsessively. Katrina and Fukushima as well as several aviation incidents kept me glued to the screen for weeks, and provided me with an approach and framework for selective deep dives to build an overall narrative. And while I largely sat out the 2008 financial crisis racing Lasers and riding bikes in Canberra I pretty much put the pieces together afterwards. C-19 isn’t my first rodeo.

So, getting back to this disaster. Being a news junkie and generally interested in this sort of thing, I’ve been following developments from the beginning. When the Pacific Princess news started coming out my attention was captured, and has been there ever since.

I’ve recently expanded my toolset to include twitter, and I’m settling in to share my thoughts and perspective here and there as we go through this. Happy to have you with me. @jeff_zolo

Selfie in front of the St. Louis Gateway Arch