The NAMM Show

The NAMM Show is the annual conference for the National Association of Music Merchants. It is, by far, the largest music event that I have ever attended. It brings together performing artists, buyers, sellers, manufacturers, music agents, and music education advocacy groups all under one conference.

Mike and Karen McCausland at the NAMM Show.

It was held at the Anaheim Convention Center and attracted thousands of people. It was just a stones throw from Disneyland. I stayed for 3 days and I still haven’t been to all of the vendors. I have also been to many workshops, most involving education where I still have a passion.

One of the great things that I was able to do was to meet new and aspiring artists in the field of music. I spoke at length with a couple at a round table discussion for the industry. We met an AR guy who gave many insights to those there. I was pleased to meet a delightful young lady from Oklahoma named Ciara Brooke. She was typical of the countless number of people following their dreams.

I will certainly go again to this amazing event. It was well worth the trip.

College, a social imperative

As far as I am concerned, making college a social imperative is a form of institutional bullying.

If you are in high school these days, you are probably more than aware of the environment being geared toward college. Yes, the college requirements are everywhere. They are on posters around the school, in guidance offices, in handbooks and on the lips of just about every teacher you encounter. They have all attended college. There may be evidence in pennants located on the wall.

There are schools, actually entire districts, (I know from experience) where they actually play college or university fight songs in between classes. There are walls dedicated to the students that made the decision to enter a specific college early and even before graduation, some students are feeling left out. If you know anything about student behavior, they want to fit in no matter how much they cry for independence.

Schools have been trying to tamp down bullying in the recent years. Sadly, this was a few decades too late for me. They don’t see that when you push college so hard, you put an enormous burden on those students whose socioeconomic situation precludes them from considering college but they try anyway. As far as I am concerned, making college a social imperative is a form of institutional bullying.

I had a friend share this article. The only thing that I am sad about is that it is a year old.


It’s time to start treating high school like the education will lead to the desire to learn more of what the student is interested in learning. Yesterday, I was guest teaching a class of APUSH. That is Advanced Placement US History. They were learning the names of presidents. They were getting facts so that they could compete on Jeopardy or take a test. There was very little discussion. They were the smart ones who lacked the opportunity to use this class to become a more informed electorate and more responsible citizens.

AI in the eyes of a Venture Capitalist

Forty percent of the world’s jobs in the future will be displaced by technology that stems from the development of AI.

Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of a commercial that hit a nerve regarding AI (Artificial Intelligence), and a venture capitalist. I didn’t pay enough attention to record the episode of 60 minutes because I was engrossed in an activity that plagues millions of potential geniuses…professional football. Now that my team has lost…and essentially, that means nothing to me…I can concentrate on teams that matter. In particular, teams that matter to my life and my future.

Forty percent of the world’s jobs in the future will be displaced by technology that stems from the development of AI. Since this is being reported by a prominent venture capitalist and they are responsible for future economic trends, attention must be paid. This was not the lead story on the news and it is tragic. Time marches forward and this prediction is over the next 15 years. Far too many people have been sounding the alarm over this and yet, the news either ignores it or buries it.

Today’s students entering high school will begin making career choices as Freshman. These choices will be for college education, because that’s what educators know and by the time they graduate college in 8 years, we will be half way to the replacement of 40% of the jobs that are labeled routine. These students will rack up debt for a degree that is useless in the face of this kind of change and no one is warning them of the coming catastrophe.

As I write this, I have found this article blocked to me and I couldn’t reach it without logging on to their system and emailing this link. The kids are still sitting in rows and trying to become as standard as possible. When will this crap end? If you still don’t think that it is crap, go watch the piece yourselves and follow the links listed.

60 Minutes Piece Most Likely to Succeed

Safety is the parent’s responsibility

If you have responsibility for kids, be responsible. It’s about safety. Follow the rules. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a car, at a playground or at a wrestling event somewhere in America. Rules are for safety. They need to be enforced.

It is always the responsibility of the individual to follow directions or rules that are listed to protect someone’s safety. This should be the absolute truth. It is surprising how many parents ignore the rules of safety because they are willing to take that risk for themselves. The don’t seem to understand, due to ignorance or arrogance, that they are effectively making the decision for those who cannot judge for themselves.

Far too many people object to their “freedoms” being challenged by rules established to have a safe productive society when we have harnessed immense energies that put attention to laws and directions paramount to our own survival…both personally and in society. Texting while driving puts your own passengers at risk as well as others. Those to object to someone telling them what they can and can’t do in their own cars will also probably be the first ones to object to the self driving cars on the road.

The warning sign for exercise equipment.
Warning label on all equipment at the outdoor gym.

I moved to La Quinta, California over the past couple of years. One of the things that I absolutely love is the outdoor gym equipment down by the park in old town La Quinta. Just about 100 feet away from this adult fitness equipment is a playground with equipment appropriate for the kids. On every one of the pieces of fitness apparatus is a warning that states that no one under 14 is permitted to use the equipment. Knowing that kids who are extremely young can’t read, there is an additional warning for parents not to let the children in their care use the equipment. Still, seemingly responsible individuals continue to let kids play on this equipment.

I have seen children who are barely toddlers being allowed and even encouraged to play on this equipment. I have remembered cringing as they lean forward to grab a handle that is supposed to be an easy reach for an adult and the footing fails because the equipment moves. Item number 3 on the red warnings is that the provider provides no liability for the misuse of the equipment. Still, if an injury occurs, I am sure that a lawyer will be involved. This stinks.

If you have responsibility for kids, be responsible. It’s about safety. Follow the rules. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a car, at a playground or at a wrestling event somewhere in America. Rules are for safety. They need to be enforced.

Tony Robbins-Live

The National Achievers Congress, a group that has been promoting these celebrity speakers followed by trainers selling courses and secrets, appeared on my newsfeed in Facebook. Alas, as a retiree, I decided that I wanted to experience a Tony Robbins live event.

The National Achievers Congress, a group that has been promoting these celebrity speakers followed by trainers selling courses and secrets, appeared on my newsfeed in Facebook. Alas, as a retiree, I decided that I wanted to experience a Tony Robbins live event. So I went. I went because I saw that Eric Worre, who is a guru in the network marketing world was supposed to be one of the speakers. He wasn’t. I was disappointed…well…a little.

Me at The Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Me at The Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The trip took me over four hours to get to The Orleans Hotel. The event was held in the Orleans Arena and the temperature in this arena was about 49 degrees because there was apparently ice under the floor. My fingers were numb as I listened to a speaker from Shark Tank talk about investment, and then a person with a $895 course to sell took over and showed how to trade stocks…sort of…but you need his course. Prior to that Dean Graziossi led to a person doing the same thing for real estate at $995. Later, a person came on with a course on mapping out your success and that was free if you took the other two courses, otherwise it was $197, a significant amount off of list price. They all say that the value of the course is a lot more. It’s really hard to say what value is.

Tony Robbins started to speak after lunch at 2:20pm. He didn’t disappoint. In an arena with 3,000 people, he worked his magic on everyone. If you sat on the floor, you had to pay money in the thousands…but then you got lunch with Tony. The lower ring was gold and cost $400 and the higher center was silver and cost $123. I almost paid $123 until I found it was also on a website at a bronze level and cost a little over $40. This was all for the same stuff.

There is a point in your life where “what you do” doesn’t matter as much as
“who you are”. This is where Tony Robbins has arrived. Through his years of infomercials, he has become a household name and as a performance coach, he makes no apologies for the seemingly endless list of famous clients that he has worked with over the years. Yet, so much of his stuff hasn’t changed over the years. I still wanted to see him live, but I was not as impressed as I thought I would be. I left early because I had a four hour ride home.

I spent just under nine hours in the car. Part of the ride included a cd I got from Tony Robbins table…where he was selling his three day events. While I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get to see Eric Worre, I believe that I can get whatever I want from him without seeing him live. Still, events like this do get you thinking. I began researching some of the investment topics and I will be pursuing that as well.

In relation to this website and blog, I have been attending meetup groups. These groups are part of the beauty of working with WordPress as a blogging and web development platform. It takes over an hour for me to get to Riverside, California from the desert, but that is a far cry from over 8 hours to Las Vegas. Still, I cannot say how much help I have gotten for free from attending these meetups. The presenters have been awesome. They have helped me immensely and definitely support my idea of people taking control of their own creative destiny. They can because there is help out there. More about that on a subsequent post, but…I am more motivated than ever to become far more than I have been up to this point.

Tracking Trackers

When you buy a device that is advertised as a must have tracking device, one of the most concerning developments is surely the loss of tracking on the actual delivery of the device. I have been a Tile customer for years. I am forever losing my keys or my wallet. In particular, I have a problem seeing things in my bag, my black bag. So, with the Tile Slim, I can keep it in my wallet and know that I have my wallet just by checking my phone.

The problem that I have with the Tile trackers is that their batteries are running dead and they were not able to be replace. Now, their newer products have replaceable batteries, but I am not sure how accessible the battery compartment is or whether it could fall out. Still, I have a Tile on 3 key rings and one in my wallet. Now, several are in need of replacement.

I knew that I had should have ordered these Tiles sooner because of the issues with deliveries on Christmas. Still, since it wasn’t necessary for me to get these replacements immediately, I waited until I had the funding and then I ordered them on December 20, 2018. I am including the year here because we are in 2019 and I don’t have my deliveries.

Now the Tile company utilizes multiple delivery service to service their customers. What I don’t understand is why they do what they do. My order was shipped and registered with a USPS tracking number but was then dropped of into DHL. So the first tracking site that you get is the DHL service and this is from a direct link from the Tile company’s email. The first time I checked it was on 12/26 when I was told that it would be delivered on 12/28.

I didn’t check it again until it didn’t arrive on 12/28 at which point I saw that it was “tendered” to the local delivery service also known as the USPS. When I went to the USPS site, the package was not listed as received. Now the real adventure begins…Tile Customer Service. Tile utilizes so much automation that they actually got several complaints from me and then sent me a customer satisfaction survey on the device that I never received. Also, they have no phone number on their website that can get a human being and their waiting time for their chat is over an hour. If I don’t have enough time to look for my keys, how am I going to give them time to just answer my text question?

After several emails and refused evaluations of the products that I never got, they sent another one…or so they say. This one was coming by way of UPS. Meanwhile, my original order ended up in Melbourne, Florida. It was last located in Compton, California which is a lot closer to my Palm Springs location. Now, the replacement is said to be in Ontario, California and that is the location of an airport with USP planes. It said that I should have my Tiles will be here by the end of the day tomorrow. We shall see.

My Pie Graph and Television

I was looking at my retirement life and I think that when I was working, I really enjoyed coming home to a relaxing reclining chair and the television remote control. Yes, that was just what I wanted, and maybe a glass of wine. I also wanted cheese. I love cheese. Wine and cheese…and a remote control. What could be better…or worse?

It was ok when I was working to participate in this activity. I should say, when I was employed. Now that I am not employed, I get to spend much more time at the reclining chair and the remote control and all my meals are taken in a comfy chair. Well, I wanted to see what this was doing to my life.

The yellow is my TV watching time…not a goal but clearly my distraction.

In my Google Drive, I found an app called the task timer. I spent some time mapping out activities that are important to me, or so I thought. Some of the more difficult things for this introvert are making phone calls. This activity always gets put off. I tried to create workable 30 minute blocks of activity so that I can get some daily activity on all of my important tasks. At the end, I tried to get real with my life, so I included watching TV as an activity. The first day had a hideous amount of time with the television. The reason for this is that I take my lunch in my recliner with my remote. Then comes sleep.

My takeaways are this from the data that I have seen. If I eat in front of the TV, I am going to go to sleep. I am also going to fill my head with crap from other people’s priorities. So, over the past few days, I have tried to eat in the kitchen or the dining room. This means eating away from my family. I hope that this translates into more productivity. That should be the goal. It’s only January 2. I should take advantage of this early revelation and develop a new habit.

A Look Back at 2018

As I sit here and begin to look back at the past 364 days, I am struck by the fact that time really moves a lot faster as you get on in years. This is also the first full year of my retirement and, while I had been retired since July of 2017, there was definitely a transitional time. I guess that the word “transitional” could describe my entire year.

In January, my father-in-law, Leonard Gibbons passed away. He had struggled with Parkinson’s disease over the past few years and it was really hard to see him lose his ability to take care of himself, let alone others as he was apt to do. I can remember him as a man who was always in control and he was a leader for his own family as well as a dear loved one to his extended family. I live in the house that he occupied for years and I still think of him when looking for tools…asking myself, “where would Len have put that?”

Also, in January, I returned to New Jersey to participate in what may well have been my last concert as a member of the Philly Pops Festival Chorus. During that time, my beloved Eagles were making a playoff run without their franchise quarterback and shocked me and the world by defeating the New England Patriots and their renowned for winning (and cheating) quarterback, Tom Brady. Yes, the Eagles were Super Bowl Champions. The game was scheduled for February 4 which coincided with my final concert with the Philly Pops. The following Tuesday, the day of the parade, I left New Jersey and returned to California.

In February, March and April I saw Tennis at the Indian Wells Tennis Center, crowds gathered for Coachella and Stage Coach, events for the young and not me, and I saw specialists for my knee problems. On February 6, I had both a blood clot and a Baker’s cyst confirmed in my right leg. My knee pain prompted me to see a specialist and I am on anti-coagulants and saving up for stem cell therapy which even my east coast doctors say is my best bet right now. It’s just insurance companies that don’t.

On February 7, I got to see my son play in Dirty Dancing in San Diego, the first of three performances that I would see with him. He would later audition for the first national tour of Dear Evan Hansen and was hired in May for a two year tour. I have seen Dear Evan Hansen now 4 times…and counting. I am very proud.

In the summer, my daughter was promoted at the Guide Dogs of the Desert to the training department. She is now working to be a trainer with them. In March, she brought out her friend who obtained a chocolate lab as her new guide dog and then went back to New Jersey.

In May, I was hired by the Desert Sands Unified School district as a substitute. I worked one day at the local middle school and one day at Shadow Hills high school before I accepted a long term music teaching position to finish out the year. I once again had to conduct a concert on my birthday. I enjoyed it because it made me feel a little bit more normal. I also needed the money as the bills were outpacing my retirement income.

In June, I returned to New Jersey to work on the house. We still need to sell it but there are issues, both legal and practical that are standing in the way. I joined my son there for the summer while he worked on his show for the upcoming year. I cleaned a lot of stuff out of the house and after my son’s Broadway debut in Dear Evan Hansen, I loaded his Saturn Vue with all of the things that I thought I needed and headed out to California. Along the way, I stopped at the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa. I also stopped in Denver where Ryan would be performing soon. I set out for California from Grand Junction Colorado and tried to make it all the way to La Quinta, California but my transmission had other plans. The car died in Yucca Valley. It was about an hour from home and Kelsi knew the way, so they drove to pick me up and the car was towed off into the sunset never to drive again.

In September, I started to work again. I needed the money and so did my wife as she doesn’t get paid over the summer. These next two months were very “transitional” in nature. I paid off my house in New Jersey in October. I had taken over paying the real estate taxes in November. When December arrived, I finally could breathe again…financially.

Today, it is December 31. I took a bike ride because I want to take a daily bike ride. I had to schedule it and follow through because it was cold. I stopped at the outdoor gym and did some strength training. On my ride, I rode up the trail at Wolf Bear Creek and witnessed a snow storm happening on the mountain in front of me. I began to get very philosophical about the new year. I am healthier. My leg is feeling better. I am getting organized for my “resolution”.

My bicycle at a water stop on Fred Wolf Bear Creek Trail, in La Quinta, California

Since retiring, I’ve let myself get out of shape. I am physically and mentally soft. I have decided to take stock. I am tracking my day with my daily goals and they are on a time. There is a pie chart that will track all of my time including one of my worst vices, the television. I know what I want to do. The goals are there. I seek to eliminate this television from my daily life. I’ve already started. Check back next year to see how I’ve done.

Happy New Year all and I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019.

Engaging vs Enraging

People are enraged. It makes it very hard to get to the truth. Now it makes it very hard to engage in a truly honorable and ethical way. We saw this in politics and now look where we are. People are enraged. They are not pointing to the death of a child, or multiple children, or even thousands of people out of work. They are pointing to a haircut. They are looking for a race controversy and they found it.

You really have to love social media. I mean it makes the world a whole lot smaller. You can be completely on the other side of the world and be caught up on all that is happening on the other side of the globe. You get the words, the pictures, the video, and it is almost like you are right there…only you’re not. That is the salient point here. You’re not there. It doesn’t matter that I called my mom on Christmas and my son called and my daughter called. We weren’t there. Now, it would appear that my former place of employment was in the news…again…now with a controversy over a haircut.

Now before people begin to think that I am minimizing what happened here, let’s put this in perspective. Nobody died. Nobody’s life was threatened. A sporting match did ensue. The participant who was “humiliated” prevailed and his team won the match.

I am quite sure that the young man would have preferred not to have his hair cut by the team trainer, but, if you ask me, what started as a teachable moment crossed over to humiliation when the cameras got rolling and the first person stated that it was a racist white official who clearly was out of line in applying a rule to the participants. In the subsequent days and reports by reliable national news people, cough, cough…rules were shown and debated and questions of appropriate rules for the sport were debated between college and high school. Nevertheless, there was a rule regarding high school sports, and it was spelled out in detail, and this was not this wrestler’s first match for this team.

So the headlines are out there already. It’s kind of hard to undo what has already been done. People are enraged. Once a person is enraged, they begin to lose the ability to really see the issue from other viewpoints or “the big picture”. So, here is my viewpoint and full disclosure here…I have been the victim of this type of hysteria and, yes, I could’ve also gone with the race card, but I didn’t and it’s not about me anyway.

I love sports…as a spectator. I love the competition…as a spectator. I love fair play. In every sport, there is an objective and a set of rules that must be followed so that there is no “unfair” advantage given to any one side. Rules are written so that everyone has an opportunity to understand the requirements and what is or is not allowed. The officials should know all of the rules. The coaches should know the rules. So should the participants, but even in the NFL, it appears professionals were surprised when a game ended in a tie.

I am not a wrestler but I certainly had to endure it as a middle school physical education activity. When I think of the rule about hair length, I am not thinking that the rule was put there for anything but safety and fair play. As a middle school wrestler, I can remember my opponent grabbing me on the back of my neck in order to execute a maneuver designed to put me flat on my back and get pinned. (This was a humiliating experience to me and nobody said a word, but…I digress.) If the length of the opponents hair extends down past the neck and it is not properly secured as per the rules, then there is a danger of the hair falling right in front of the area that the wrestler uses in the course of the match, there is a distinct safety issue in my humble opinion. Grab the hair and if it leads all the way up to the front of the head, you could snap someone’s neck back and hurt them very badly. If the opponent knows this, then they are required to avoid the area in it’s entirety to keep from “accidentally pulling the hair” or being accused of it in the heat of a match.

The solution is to regulate the hair length by rule so that there is no chance of this being an advantage to either participant and make it a “fair fight”. Now that’s how I see it as a former participant in this activity, albeit an unwilling participant. If you’re an official, you know these things. The farther you get away from being that official…a coach, a teammate, a spectator, or just someone on social media…the more likely it is that you don’t have all of the facts and you will follow the lead of the sound bite, the controversy, the righteous hoard who don’t see the damage that they are doing to the participants, the school, or the sport.

There are hundreds of editorial versions of this single video online to stoke controversy over this one event. Everyone has an opinion and the problem is that everyone wasn’t there. Everyone doesn’t know the rules as it pertains to this event. Everyone doesn’t know what this and other officials may have had to deal with on the previous day, weeks or months relative to hair length and wrestling. Everyone has an opinion. It’s like throwing gasoline on a fire and saying, “why is everything burning?” If you noticed, it is the one’s with the already decidedly racial slant that are getting the most views.

Here are some things to think about as you are feeding this monster.

  1. If you want to wrestle, you have to follow the rules. This means all of the rules and you have to honor the interpretation of those rules. When I was in high school, you always knew who was on the wrestling team. You knew because they were dressed in a shirt and tie on a day of a wrestling meet. They did it because it was a rule. It was a coach rule. They followed the rule. This rule had nothing to do with safety but I will bet that no wrestler on that team ever had any problem with their equipment relative to what they needed to compete with on the mat.
  2. The match was forgotten. The student in question had an opponent. He was ultimately the forgotten man here. What should have been a wrestling match became a national issue and he was just forgotten. Maybe he should get a lawyer.
  3. All refs have to make judgement calls. If it’s a ref at a high school wrestling match, he is the only one vested with calling penalties and such during a match and is the one who will be blamed if something happens, particularly if it involves safety and should have been handled earlier. Now that he is being crucified for this…all referees will be targeted. All of them will be thinking of race relations before making a call that could affect the safety of the participants and ultimately their own liability. Some will bend the rules. Some will quit. Everyone of them will be looking for color now before the match. Is that what everyone wanted?
  4. Personal accountability goes out the window if this only becomes about the official. Before you are placed on a team in school, you have to be academically eligible. You then have to commit to following the rules…all the rules. The hair length issue should have been addressed at the team level by the coach in the beginning. Chances are that it was addressed. We will never know because it was picked up by the Internet before anyone could ask the question. How many times does it have to be put in writing? Now we are debating the rule, the official, the coach, the school, the governing body and opinions are being generated all over the world by people who don’t know…and neither do I.

People are enraged. It makes it very hard to get to the truth. Now it makes it very hard to engage in a truly honorable and ethical way. We saw this in politics and now look where we are. People are enraged. They are not pointing to the death of a child, or multiple children, or even thousands of people out of work. They are pointing to a haircut. They are looking for a race controversy and they found it.

If you’re looking for blame, I start with the government. Social media controversies are mainstream in our lives and we can’t even teach responsible, ethical, and legal use of these platforms in our schools because of all of the other useless shit you mandate.

I could blame the school district but they are so handcuffed by the government and now the media that they can do little to interfere with the educational process and include social media skills as part of their regular curriculum. Still, having worked in this district, I also know that it is so clear that they are mismanaged because their student population continues to decline and they have done nothing to stem the tide over the past few years. No innovative programs. No support of existing programs that used to be great.

Social media and partisan main stream media as well have created this firestorm. We live in an era of this media and we need to understand that it is a tinderbox of terror particularly when stoking negative emotions. People need to read beyond the headlines and the soundbites. This is an education that is necessary and relevant to this age.

To Anthony Johnson who, I don’t know even though I taught at the school, I offer up this as something to ponder. Jim Rohn has said, “it’s not the blowing of the wind, but the set of the sail that determines your future.” This moment, all that is happening around you can keep you a victim…if you continue to focus on what you cannot control…or you can be a leader. Look at your face in the mirror and know that you ultimately made a decision, you led in the face of a wind you couldn’t change, and made a decision for yourself and for your team. You were in control of that decision. If you give in now and become the “victim”, you will forever be at the mercy of the wind. The firestorm around you is just the wind…albeit a strong wind.

To the rest of the world that got caught up in this, maybe you could think with some perspective.

  • There was a hair cut-that will grow back
  • There was a sporting event-that went on
  • Nobody died-or even got hurt…well, at least physically

Happy New Year, Internet!