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An Honest Thief

How they make their living…

In the middle of August, I began my cross country trip to visit NJ and see my family. I was also visiting during the local stop of Dear Evan Hansen so I was able to see my son for a few days as well. My car, one that was just purchased at lease end, seemed to be the focus of a lot of my trip. Hub caps popping on and off and the changing cost of gas at each stop made for an interesting narrative. Sadly, the worst was saved for my last day in San Francisco. I moved my car from the expensive ($35) parking lot to the free meter for the final day. On Sunday, the meters do not run and the parking is free. Ah…but as the saying goes…there’s no free ride…or in this case park.

I was alerted to this possibility by the daytime clerk at the desk of the Grant Hotel. The night clerk recommended against it. He said that the neighborhood was not good…even in the day. Also, parking spaces may not be available when I want them. I told him that I arrived at 5:30AM the previous day…I would be able to find a spot. Having heard him talk about the access to parking…I decided to move my car at 2:30AM. There were still people wide awake and milling about. The spot I got was right in front of the door of the Golden Gate Hotel which was right next door.

I went in and within the hour, I was to be robbed. I wouldn’t know it until the next morning. I did not heed the warnings. I tried to save $35 and now it will cost me hundreds. All of those trite sayings were popping into my head. Sayings like, “pennywise and pound foolish” or “better safe than sorry”. Still, I take no blame for the crime. I am not the criminal. Yet, the criminal(s)…they had the reputation.

The way they approached their crime was in a very businesslike way. They assessed the risk, they worked in tandem, they knew their target, they were in and out in about 15 seconds. They got a very nice suitcase full of…dirty underwear and a couple pair of shoes. It was not the score that they had hoped for but the crime was low risk. Breaking a window doesn’t trigger an alarm like opening the door without a key. The car was silent all night.

Since they can’t make a decent living off of dirty underwear…I am sure that I was not their only target of the night. It does make me wonder…what if? What if they used their skills to help people instead of hurt them? What if they looked for real opportunities to contribute instead of being opportunists? What if someone had cared enough to get between them and the bad decisions that have now come to define their lives?

Parents, teachers, friends, and extended family have to be much more involved in the lives of young people before they make enough bad choices to end up here working the night shift.

Should the 2nd Amendment be repealed?

if the NRA put as much money into creating facilities and strategies for these law abiding citizens to safely own and shoot these weapons as they do in buying congressional votes, maybe everyone could be made happy and even a new cottage industry could be born.

My Opinion–No–I am just going to put it out there.  My opinion is an emphatic NO.  This is my opinion.

When this country was founded over 200 years ago, after the Constitution was written, Congress saw fit to add to it 10 Amendments on December 15, 1791.  That was a mere 15 years after the Congress took the bold step of Declaring its Independence from a tyrannical government from overseas.  These 10 amendments, The Bill of Rights, as it became known, were articulated on paper and made known to the world.  These rights were the ones that were regularly tread on by the mother country leading to both colonization and then ultimately forming the American Nation.

Flash forward 200 years or so…

Retired Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens suggests that the 2nd amendment be repealed.  His reasoning is articulated in line with one of two schools of thought regarding the Constitution.  Is the Constitution to be taken literally for all time, or is it a living document that must adjust with the times?  Well, if you carry a constitution with you and you can read, you should be able to decide for yourselves…but you can’t…(more later on that).

I, for one, have carried a copy with me for my entire teaching career.  I have focused on one particular amendment in the Bill of Rights and that is why I always had it handy…not so I could say…”see, I told you”…but to provoke thought.  Just for fun…lets provoke a little thought.

I like Law and Order…not the concept although I like that too.  It’s the TV Show.  I love it when Jack McCoy and the defense attorney’s tussle over things that relate to the rights of the accused.  You hear a lot about search and seizure (4), witness against oneself (5), and right to a speedy trial(6).  You hardly ever hear of a jury being empaneled for a small claims action even though they are universally for more than $20 and the 7th amendment should be enforced.  It is specific.  Amendment 3 has not been violated too much in my lifetime, but it stands to reason that it could be.

If the 2nd amendment should be repealed, shouldn’t these others also be considered.  And what about the 1st Amendment.

I have been a music teacher all of my life.  I have always struggled with the ideal delivery of a vocal music education which included works of the masters with no consideration for the fact that it may have a “sacred text”.  Students and parents, however, were sometimes surprised to see this music being performed in a public school.  Sometimes, there would be complaints, controversy, and yes, even lawsuits.  They cried “separation of church and state”, which is not in the 1st amendment, not a title to the 1st amendment, but used as a metaphor relating to the actual text of the 1st amendment and articulated by James Madison.  That became the de facto title, then a rallying cry and then it was put into the hands of great thinkers…The Supreme Court of the United States.  These guys and gals if I may be so politically incorrect should always get it right…then why is it not unanimous?  The truth is that they all suffer from the affliction of bias and that is an affliction of humanity.

The history of my bias (aka confirmation bias)

I was born in Philadelphia PA.  I moved with my family at the age of 5 to Marlton, NJ where I attended public school until I was 18.  I went to college at TSC met my wife and became a music teacher and taught for 26 years in the public schools of NJ.  I never hunted.  I never knew crime.  I had no connection with guns.  My family, particularly my mom put the fear of God into me with relation to guns.

I was also bullied mercilessly from grade 6 through grade 12.  I lived in constant fear that I was going to be beaten up or even killed from people who now to this very day I consider the excrement of the world.  As a teacher, when I saw bullying, I went into such an internal rage that my clothing was soaked in sweat and I literally had the shakes.  I confronted the bully and made sure that they knew I wouldn’t tolerate it.

In school as a student, it was fear.  Shaking quivering fear.  As a teacher…it was rage.  Oh, did I mention the lack of gun thing?  Yes.  I’m sure I did.  In school, as a student, if I had access to a gun, I probably wouldn’t have done anything since fear…of literally everything ran my life.  What about rage?  How about rage?  I just don’t know. Who does?

This is my story.  This is my position of bias.  When facing the issue of guns, it could very easily be a confirmation bias.  Confirmation bias is when you consider only those points that seem to confirm your position that you have already decided on a particular issue.  There are other points of view and other “evidences” but they are dismissed because they don’t fit our point of view.  I do it.  You do it.  SCOTUS does it.  So, what can we do?  We acknowledge that we have biases and attempt to think beyond the biases.

Here are my thoughts.

The 2nd Amendment, the entire Bill of Rights in fact, should be left alone.  The Bill of Rights is in our DNA.  It has many little brothers and sisters in Medicine (Patients Bill of Rights), Air Travel (Passengers Bill of Rights), and I am sure many others currently around or in the future.  The repeal of the 2nd amendment will have very little effect on guns since 44 states have this right in their own constitution.  Besides, we wouldn’t have a nation if the 2nd amendment wasn’t there and ascribed to because in 1812, Britain tried to take back the treasonous colonies while we were still yet in a colonial period.  We owe a lot to the 2nd amendment.  We owe a lot to gun owners.  That leaves us with an enormous problem.  If we attempt to regulate guns, how do we do it? (Of course, I mean all of us in we…both sides of the issue.)

In colonial times, the gun was used to protect the home.  This need still exists today.  People could come into our homes to rob us or harm us and we see this on the news everyday.  If you live in certain neighborhoods, you may need that protection at home.  Females in fear of attackers who choose to protect themselves with a gun should be allowed to qualify for a carry permit.

Hunting and shooting clay pigeons are sports and activities that have been around for years.  Taking these guns is just plain silly.

Weapons of war, where the likelihood of collateral damage is great when the weapon is discharged, is another story altogether.  How many times have we seen policemen “empty a clip” on an unarmed person because they ran or hid in the shadows?  Even in the right hands, we’ve seen deadly consequences.  People who think, really think, know that something has to be done…but what?  What is the right answer?  In light of the fact that there are groups that are so fringe that they are an enemy militia being bread in our midst…along with, and no I don’t understand the love of this shooting…but honest law abiding individuals who own and want to shoot their automatic weapons.

Checking my bias as much as I can, I say that if the NRA put as much money into creating facilities and strategies for these law abiding citizens to safely own and shoot these weapons as they do in buying congressional votes, maybe everyone could be made happy and even a new cottage industry could be born.  I mean if there was a way to own your big gun and keep it where you can shoot it and enjoy it among like minded people, then you are similar to my neighbor who has a boat bigger than my house who has to sacrifice his fun when it’s not in the water because it just doesn’t go fast out of the water.

If lawmakers stopped being owned by the gun companies then they could spend some serious time “thinking” and identifying those weapons that should be kept out of the civilian households and tightened up interstate controls instead of trying to trip up the public with their stupid questions about details of “what is an automatic weapon”?, then maybe we would make progress.

If the general public weren’t so afraid to confront the issue and attempt to set aside their own biases even for a short period of time, they would be less likely to be led down the garden path from extremists on both sides and start a real dialog.  It is much easier to scroll…and share…and not give it a second thought. 

On December 14, 2012, there were two major school attacks in the news. One was here in the United States at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 26 people were killed including 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7. The other in Chenpeng Village Primary School in Henan province, China. At this school, 22 students were attacked with a large knife. No one died.

It’s been 10 years since then. The 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States admonishes the law makers to regulate the “rights of the people to keep and bear arms.” It’s time to start regulating.

Passive Income vs Residual Income

What is the better avenue for additional income today? Well, that depends. It depends on your risk tolerance. Passive Income is derived from income on assets that you own and quite often are leveraged so that there is significant recurring costs. Residual income comes to you from value that you create in your life and the lives of others through products and services.

Clearly, both avenues are valuable and can be used by the same individual who is interested in a diverse supplemental income stream. It may be necessary to get involved in one before you get involved in the other. The startup costs for passive income from real estate is very high and so are the maintenance costs. The startup costs for residual income opportunities are much smaller and depending on the avenue that you choose, you can start making profits quickly.

The really exciting thing about residual income is that in most businesses that offer residuals as part of their compensation plan, the idea of teamwork and sharing is an integral part of the operation. No one is alone.

Here is the schedule. Bookmark and visit soon. Remember…it’s free.

Fear and Opportunity

These two seemingly opposing concepts are at the heart of a lot of decissions that people make. In reality, the strongest concept is that of fear. Fear is a paralyzing force that prevents many people from even recognizing and acting on an opportunity, yet is the same reason for acting on the same. I’ll explain.

I trade stocks in the morning. Yes, when the market opens, I spend about a half hour in that harrowing experience known as intraday trading also known as Day Trading. If you just watch the stock market you can see that it moves up and down all day long. For me, I just need to know which direction and catch the move much like a surfer catches a good wave. The move is usually short lived and can turn on a dime. Why does it turn? Fear. Why does it move fast in one direction? Fear…of missing out. FOMO.

In the market…you live to trade another day. That means you protect your account. You must have some confidence in what you are doing before you take a position on a stock. Then you protect against serious losses. You also must remember to take your profits along the way. Those who think that there may be a shortcut to winning will lose big and reinforce the fear.

The key to conquering the fear is to have a good mentor and a disciplined approach. If you have that, fear can be your friend and protector. If you don’t it will paralyze you and keep you from your ultimate potential.

I write this, not to be preachy…but to be teachy. I need to be reminded of this everyday. BTW I know that teachy is not a word…it just fit the context. No FEAR.

Schools Need to Vaccinate Everyone

You can do all of this and create the safest “system and physical plan,” but you cannot instill the self discipline in younger children that will make those plans and protocols work.

For years, the people writing the regulations for schools have been so disconnected from the reality of education that they have created the dismal failure that exists in our schools. This only really hurts the students…and what do they know? They have to do what they are told…right? Right? Right!!!! Every teacher knows the answer to this question and now so do some parents who have been observant. The answer to that question is NO.

The pandemic and distance learning have shown clearly that we have a large number of students being left out because of lack of technology but also the lack of supervision. Sending your child to school means that you can put the teacher in charge of “keeping your child in line” in addition to teaching the child the academics mandated by the State. If you have observed a ZOOM class online you can see that many students are misbehaving during their classes in front of their computers or checking out completely. There is no intervention by the adult physically in the room.

You can quote the CDC all you want. You can have the President say it is so. You can have the doctors agree on protocols. You can do all of this and create the safest “system and physical plan,” but you cannot instill the self discipline in younger children that will make those plans and protocols work. Every teacher knows this and now many parents do as well. Those parents are demanding to remain online until there is a vaccine . Which parents do you think will demand to have their children in school? Yes, the ones with very little self discipline or any discipline at home.

Teachers are in the high risk group. The age of a teacher could be 22 or 62 or somewhere in between and comorbidities increase with age. How do you know? The truth is…you don’t. There are immunization requirements before a person starts school for diseases that have all but been eradicated. We have a killer disease in our midst and vaccines that are becoming available more and more. Why the rush? Yes, it has been tough. Yes, you are tired but the idea that one year of this type of education will “do irreparable damage” to kids is ludicrous.

If you wanted to go to school to teach or to learn you would have to get a TB test. In 2019, 1.4 million people died of TB. In 2020, over 2.4 million people died of COVID 19. Both diseases are respiratory in that they are transmitted through the air on water droplets. TB is bacterial, has an ineffective vaccine, and is monitored by employment testing all over. COVID is a virus that has many promising vaccines but is behind the intervention curve in both diagnosis and immunizations. Why the rush? Putting people back into school even part time will not do anything to improve academics and will slow the real progress of getting a normal opening for the next academic year.

The rhetoric coming from Washington even in this new administration is very Trumpesque. It is not unusual for any administration to legislate schools into institutional obsolescence whether Republican or Democrat. It is unconscionable to politicize the profession to risk the very people we need to overcome the administrative stupidity that emanates from government at all levels for the sake of votes or feeling good. Lawmakers…it’s time for you to put on your Big Boy Pants and defend common sense.

Engagement on Social Media is Free Advertising

I have seen several people who have objected to my comment that if you support the events that took place today that I wish you to unfriend me. Normally, I don’t hold a person’s political views against them. I believe myself to be more conservative than liberal. I would be happy to continue to engage you with your opinions off of social media but I firmly believe that we got into this situation because of the algorithms built into social media that amplify this disagreement and contribute to divisiveness. Today, in lieu of trying to be “diplomatic”, I have purposely tried to draw out the people by giving my unbridled opinion. This way, my feed will not contribute to the ongoing virus that plagues America and I am not talking about Corona. Social Media started this mess and my social behavior will no longer tolerate it.

I have been following Donald Trump on Twitter only to know what and when he is tweeting. I believe his tweets are akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater which is illegal. I’ve seen him create the crisis and take a simmering dislike and bring it to a boiling hate. I am not participating in it. I have seen him use Christianity to achieve his own political goals and weaken Christianity as a faith. This is disgusting particularly when Christians are lining up right behind him and champion him forward.

If you want to debate this for real…do it here. If it appears on my social media, you can count on me deleting your comment and blocking your access to my life. This is for the greater good.

What Can I Do For You Today?

Harvey McKay relates a story about Lou Holtz where he said that the legendary coach of Notre Dame never ended a conversation without asking the question “what can I do for y0u today?”. People always appreciate help and encouragement and yet we seem to neglect just offering the help. I don’t know why but we do…at least I do…or I did.

Among all of my new years “resolutions”, I think that if I keep this idea in mind it will keep me focused and energized for today and make my tomorrows more compelling. Isn’t that just what we all need is a compelling tomorrow? I think so.

I won’t deny the virus or what it has done to our way of life. I also won’t let it paralyze me and cause me to have fear for the future. I will stay safe, smart and vigilant but I will also use my creativity and energies to improve the lives of others and therefore improve my own.

I hope you all have a great new year. Now…how can I help you today?

Do Unto Others

When I returned to California and I tried to resume my normal bicycling routine, I found that it was difficult to do the long rides up the mountain. It was colder and I was getting up later and later and there was a little more daylight. I started seeing more things of interest. One day, I rode past an iPhone just sitting in the bicycle lane. It was undamaged. Later that week, along the same area, I found a phone directory complete with websites and passwords. Finally, a month later, I was on a morning bike ride and I found a wallet complete with cash and an id.

I found a way to return all of these items to their rightful owners. I did it, knowing the panic that I would have been experiencing if I had lost these same items. I felt pretty good about what I did, but since one of the items were tossed from a stolen car, it reminded me that there are still evil opportunists out there and we must be careful.

I took a long bike ride the other day. I wanted to pick up donuts at the local Krispey Kreme. That is a short ride of 11 miles and I also wanted to go to a sporting goods store. When I go with shopping in mind, I clip on my trusty panier bags to the rear rack of my bicycle. After my last purchase, I turned for home. A 45 minute ride. When I arrived at home, I realized that one of my trusty paniers was missing. It was then that I felt that panic that I referenced.

Inside that bag was my wallet, my iPhone, my Bose Wireless Headphones and my action camera and charger. Actually, my whole life was now missing. I grabbed my Android phone and my wife and my car keys and headed out the door. Fortunately, I had a a tracker in my wallet and it was linked to my Android phone. I knew where my bag had fallen off of my bike and it was 8 miles away. I also know the bump that I hit. It was a stressful ride but that bag sat on the corner of the sidewalk untouched for over an hour.

When I settled down, I started thinking. No cash was taken from my wallet. My biggest concern is that there are a lot of homeless people who scavenge for whatever they can on the sides of the road. Nothing was touched. The phone, the earbuds, the charging case all had value and could be sold. I still have them. I feel relieved. I also feel that maybe I was being rewarded for my selfless actions from the previous weeks. Maybe…but maybe it was a wakeup call.

I recommend the trackers for your wallets. I also had my location available on my iPhone and if we thought of that, my wife could have tracked my iPhone as well, but at that time, I wasn’t aware that my iPhone was also in that bag. Furthermore, I will keep my wallet and small valuables in a string bag attached to my back instead of paniers which do have a tendency to detach when the road gets really rough. After some thought and reflection…I will keep my eye out for opportunities.

Missed Opportunity

One day before this happened, I was biking in Indio to another donut shop. (I have a problem with donuts). Well, when I left, I rode past a Starbucks where a girl sat tearing through a newspaper. She was clearly messed up and the newspaper littered the entire stoop. Concerned employees came out and chased her off. When I rode past she was hiding her face behind the paper and peaked over the top and said hello. I just rode on. I can’t help feeling that I missed an opportunity to improve someone’s life or outlook with just a cup of coffee or breakfast or anything. My near loss and my concern that a person in need might take something of mine has really gotten me to rethink that situation. Next time, when the opportunity presents itself, I will make the effort.

Who is to blame?

Faced with another lockdown due to out of control virus spreading…and all I can hear is blame. Blame of the government over reaching with their power. Blame the congress for not bailing us out. Blame the president for letting this go on. Blame blame blame.

Blame has a tendency to weaken us. It is the opposite of credit. Credit the government for trying to control the virus. Credit the congress for forcing us to step up as citizens. Credit the president for…well…that may be a tough sell but he credits himself enough for all of us.

Once you get past the blame and realize that you have to be creative…a lot more possibilities area available to you. Our problem seems to be our lack of creativity. I think that it has been schooled out of us. As a career educator, curricula and the mindset of pushing everyone to college has created a group of people who are stuck in the credential pit. They have their credential that they will be paying on for a long time…but now, their livelihood has gone.

Times like these call for far more creativity than we’ve been trained to execute. Perhaps this is why we blame. It is far easier to blame someone else than to step out and try something new.

Dad

Gerald Francis McCausland was born on March 4, 1932.  He took his last breath on October 6, 2020.  During those 88 years of life, he had many roles.  He was a son to James and Florence McCausland.  He was a brother to Kay, Sally, and Jimmy.  He was the husband to Joan and the father to Jerry, Michael, Kevin, Mark and Mary Kate.  He was also an uncle to countless nieces and nephews as well as a grandfather to Ryan and Kelsi.  

When I was growing up, his primary role was that of the provider.  He worked many jobs associated with computers.  When he finally retired, he shunned anything to do with computers.  The modern day computer and what it has done for society is foreign to him and an annoyance.  When I asked him why he didn’t like it he said that he wasted enough of his life with computers.

You see, my dad was a farmer.  He believed in life.  Every year he would plant the seeds in the indoor nursery, grow them to a healthy germination, prepare the soil outdoors, and plant them where the sun was plentiful.  He would nurture them at the conclusion of his “workday” and pull the weeds and defend them with ever increasing and elaborate fences.  When the harvest came, sometimes there was so much fruit that he needed to tie up the plant to keep it from breaking.  

I had the privilege of knowing my father for 58 years.  He took me to baseball games, watched me play baseball, and was even my coach for a day. No matter how bad I did…and I was pretty bad…he was there encouraging me all the way.  He even forced himself to sit through school plays and musicals when I knew that he didn’t really love to do those things.  I took my love of music with his support to college.  I made my career teaching music.  At my first concert, he was there.  

He did the same for my brothers and sister.  My dad shared the skiing experience with Jerry and Kevin.  He became the defacto owner of dogs that were originally his children’s and both Tempo and Melody became his best friends.  His two youngest children have remained close in both proximity and importance.  They both spend countless hours in what has been the family home for over fifty years.

Probably one of his greatest joys was being grandpop to Ryan and Kelsi.  He encouraged every aspect of growth in both of my children.  He was the first to hand Ryan a pair of drumsticks.  He was host to my daughter in her time as a sales person in Princeton after her graduation.  Dad and Kelsi also shared their love of dogs and now she works with dogs all the time and Ryan is a professional drummer.  Dad planted the seeds and was there to nourish the dream and the harvest has been good.  

Since my parents’ retirement, I have seen what a true love story is all about.  Dad and mom would switch roles as caretaker when the other needed them.  Still, we needed them just as much.  Recently, it has been my father who needed more care and my brothers and sister  have had the opportunity to give back.

Regarding my father’s spiritual journey, it is difficult to say.  He was a private man in those regards and although at one time he was on a path to priesthood, he is now far removed from his time at church.  I am likewise being challenged in this regard particularly in these uneasy times but I am going to make an argument for where I believe his spirit is in the context of Christianity and I am going to mix a little politics in for good measure.  Don’t worry…it’s Biblical politics.  

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is being questioned by legal scholars.  Their goal was to discredit him.  They asked Him one question…and he gave three answers.  

What is the greatest commandment?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength and the second is like it.  Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two hang all the law and the prophets.  

My father clearly loved his neighbor.  This is clear evidence of the first commandment which is very personal.  The law and doctrine and prejudice and judgement must be viewed in the light of this statement by Jesus.  I believe he has evaluated his spiritual life accordingly.  

Finally, at times like these, we take measure of what we have lost.  A great man who has connected with so many people has finished his time on Earth and we are sad.  I choose to take measure on what we have gained by having this man in our lives.  

I love you dad.  I hope I continue to make you proud.

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