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.

Brainwashing

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.

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.

Dare to follow your dream…

I have found that it is in the familiar surroundings that I am far more distracted. Distraction is a major problem in everybody’s life.

Last night, I had a visit from a former student.  She chose to leave the east coast, alone in her car, to follow her dream.  Packed inside and onto the back of her car were all of her worldly belongings, or all that she perceived that she needs to make it here in California.  

She is blessed with a beautiful voice and a delightful personality.  After graduating from high school, she found herself in a number of service jobs, mostly as a waitress and a bartender.  She never really focused on her own talent.  Now, she is throwing caution to the wind and trying to find out just who she is and what is the purpose for her life here on Earth.

Leaving everything that you know is hard.  Family and friends who have put down roots probably will never understand the yearning that one has to really make a unique contribution to the world.  Today, it is not necessarily a place but a frame of mind.  Still, a change of scenery couldn’t hurt.  

I have found that it is in the familiar surroundings that I am far more distracted.  Distraction is a major problem in everybody’s life.  Sometimes you can make distractions a convenient excuse for not doing the work that you should have already done on the front end…and that is clarifying your goals.  I was about to put on my teacher hat and preach this message to my former student.  Instead, maybe I should take my own advice.  

Hence forth, my goals will be articulated. My distractions will have solutions related to triggers. I will trigger myself to do something much more productive and in line with my goals. This will allow me to lead a much more congruent life.

Technology

Today, I am guest teaching at Palm Desert High School.  Palm Desert High School has some unique programs, not unlike Palm Desert Charter Middle School.  The Middle School, which is geographically located in reasonable proximity to the high school, has, in my opinion, some of the most unique programs.  While I was guest teaching a math class in Palm Desert Middle School, a number of students brought in flags that are used in Marching Band.  When I asked about the club, they told me that it was a class.  Where I taught before, you can’t find a high school with such a class.

While at Palm Desert High School yesterday, I ran into a student who shouldn’t be here based on geography.  He said he came for baseball.  He makes the trip for baseball.  I had noticed the baseball field outside of my classroom yesterday.  I remarked to myself that it was amazingly manicured.  At the end of the day, when I left, there was a baseball practice underway.  This practice had to be underway before the end of the day as the students were already in uniform.

A November baseball practice.

It dawned on me how different this school and it’s middle school are from the average school and yet how much of it is the same.  The students are still required to do the work of the curriculum, yet there are these extras.  I am inside a class of computer science students.  It has been said that this field is dominated by men in the workplace.  Out of a class of 24 students, there are 2 girls.  The previous class had 21 students and only 2 girls.  In truth, if a tech company was looking for the best candidate for a job without regard to race, gender, or anything other than the qualifications of the individual that might make them a “rock star” in their industry, the numbers are skewed in favor of the males.

The entire class quickly finishes their assignment of what they are required to do and moves on to what they want to do. I should probably be a little scared about this, but, they are using school machines through wired into the school network, so they are precluded from doing any damage as a result of juvenile mischief…I hope.

I really wish that their work that they did everyday had a relevance to their interests or their lives.  Some of their conversations about the “gaming” that they are involved in certainly lend themselves to the creativity necessary to come up with the next big thing.  I guess it is hard to gauge this when you are a guest teacher and a little out of your field.  Still the energy is palpable and you want to catch the energy.  This should be the true art of teaching.

A Special May

When I retired last year, I believed that I experienced a lot of lasts.  My last concert on May 17, 2017.  My last class on June 9, 2017.  My last opportunity to impact students in a public school…ever.  I knew that I would be a substitute teacher and from time to time I may feel that I have made an impact on a student or two.  I certainly didn’t envision this.

A very unfortunate circumstance developed and a school that had a well respected and effective teacher found themselves without one.  While the circumstances were and still are devastating to the community, it did create an opportunity for a new experience for me.  Students who were hurt and yet still in the process of their music performances were left with questioned loyalties.  Their teacher, whom they loved and supported was now being publicly vilified.  Their school administration seemed to be less than supportive of their devotion to him.  Their school year, as they knew it, was over.  They had just come off of some great “once in a lifetime” experiences and now had to continue through the end of the year concerts.  Then there was me.

The principal said that there was a very difficult situation.  They really needed someone to come in and get them through the end of the year, but, it will be very difficult.  I had seen situations like this before.  I knew that no matter how dedicated I was, I was still going to be seen as “the outsider”.  They were going to rebel.  They were going to vent their anger.  They were going to be middle school students reacting to an adult situation with very little emotional resources.  I was preparing myself for a difficult if not impossible road to affect their lives in a positive way.  What really happened…I never saw it coming.

Since retiring, I have been trying to enjoy my freedom.  Freedom from having to get up every morning.  Freedom from planning for the next day.  Freedom from all of the things that I perceived as annoying.  It just isn’t that easy.  What it means to be a teacher is to unlock another person’s limiting belief in themselves and the world that they live in.  That has been my goal over the past several years as I neared retirement.  It’s hard to quantify, but you know it when you see it.

This group of students, through their shared struggle have helped me see my value…again.  They have come together to support one and other in a way that belies their age.  I couldn’t be prouder of any group of people that I have ever known.  They are a credit to their parents, teachers and yes, their own friends.  They have truly done far more for me than I have for them.

Thank you DRA advanced choir.  You made this old guy feel young…all over again.

The three dollar manager’s special…

I waited for the sale date on the car wash and I paid $3 for the Premium Manager’s special at the local gas station.  This is where all the trouble started.

Several weeks ago, I got an oil change in my car.  This car, I inherited from my wife when she got her new Jeep.  She had paid for this oil change in advance so I didn’t have to lay out any money.  The Saturn is the one that we drove cross country from New Jersey.  It had lost its air conditioning in the summer, and since it was old, we added a new car to the family, but kept the Saturn for me.

After getting my oil changed, I had an occasion to park the car in the garage.  When I pulled it out, I noticed oil had leaked on the ground.  I then checked my parking space which is outside of the garage and it too had oil stains on the asphalt.  I was irritated over this since I had just had the oil changed.  I have been planning a long ride in this car for some time and leaving it in the outdoor parking area where it is subject to daily sprinkling on the passenger side and the occasional dust storm, the car was filthy.  I waited for the sale date on the car wash and I paid $3 for the Premium Manager’s special at the local gas station.  This is where all the trouble started.

After purchasing the gas, I realized that there was no purchase necessary and you had to pay for the wash in the convenience store that was conveniently located across the 100 degree parking lot.  Well I paid after over paying for gas, and proceeded to the car wash.  Now, I had gotten one here before but it was paid for at the pump.  This one was not.  I guess it was more thorough.

After watching the car get scrubbed and rinsed, I watched the process go again and spraying my car one more time.  This didn’t happen before.  Here is where I noticed that I was getting hot.  I put on the non air conditioned blower.  The fan started to pummel me with water through the vents.  At the same time, I started getting rained on through the now saturated ceiling.  I was aggravated and I couldn’t wait for the wash to be over.  When I finally got the green light, I put it in gear hit the gas and got nothing…nothing that is except for two engine lights.  Both were orange, but I still was concerned because the one with the downward arrow in it…well, I never saw that one before.  Since the car wouldn’t move and there was a guy behind me, I opened my window to yell out.  I was still stuck in the garage with the dryer blowing.  I couldn’t hear.  Since my car wasn’t moving anyway…I decided to turn it off.  After waiting and praying for several seconds, I turned it back on.  I hit the gas…alarms went off in the Car Wash as I proceeded too fast, so I hit the brakes to go slowly through the dryer.  I forgot one thing though…I had the windows down.  I was hit with 100 degree air from both sides of my face as I panicked again, and struggled to get the windows up.  Thank God that their electronics worked because the dashboard was once again ablaze with warnings.  I inched out onto the road and got as far as the first traffic light before I once again lost power.  I had to turn the car off and on again several times to get it to the car dealer that had done the oil change just a couple of weeks earlier.

My discussion with the man at the dealership shop is where my $3 car wash really began to get, well, out of the realm of a bargain.  I told him what happened in the car wash.  As he was listening and asking about the car I told him that it had been serviced there before for an oil change and had subsequently developed a leak.  He added that to the service slip and told me that the diagnostic fee was $130.  I jokingly told him that he was going to charge me that to plug in a little device.  (I have the device back in NJ and have used it to save on the diagnostic fee before with a “trusted” mechanic.  He said that the code still wouldn’t tell you what is wrong and that was the reason for the fee.  I didn’t argue.  I just signed the form as the cost of the car wash…including the gas was now up to $169.

Later that day, a call came in to tell me that the accelerator  pedal assembly failed and needed to be replaced.  She said that the entire bill, including the diagnostic fee was going to be $330.  Now my car wash including the gas and repair was up to $369.  I had to wait for a delivery of a bath tub at my house (this requires a blog post by itself…)  so I couldn’t leave my house until after 3pm.  I took my bicycle out and pedaled the two miles in 104 degree heat.  When I arrived, I was told that the oil leak was not resolved as I had refused the work.  They told me that if I wanted it fixed it would cost an additional $160.  Now, we are up to $529 for the car wash!!!  First of all, I brought the oil leak to their attention!!  I had not refused the work. Second of all, they got me to agree to the repair for $330.  They were “sorry for the confusion” but if I wanted the oil leak fixed it would be more time and more money.

In New Jersey, where I am from, there is a place called Bob’s Garage.  Not surprisingly, it was run by Bob!  When we had trouble with our 1985 Ford Escort that was barely a year old and was seen by the dealer several times, we were just about at the end of our rope.  We were close to filing a Lemon Law claim.  Friends of ours recommended Bob.  We took it to him.  He had it for a day and then called us.  We came over and met Bob and he talked to us about the car.  He said simply, “idle control circuit…it’s hard to tell with these new cars…if you have any more trouble, bring it right in…otherwise…”-and then he extended his hand…not palms up for money, but a handshake.  I said, “What do we owe?” He kept his hand out.  I shook it…said goodbye…and was his customer for life.

Before moving to California in 2016, Bob fixed that same 2005 Saturn up for the cross country trip.  That was 31 years after we met him.  He has worked on every car that we own.  When the work was done…if we weren’t happy, he stood behind his work.  He has taken hundreds of dollars off of our repairs over the years and once even bought a car that he couldn’t fix.  Maybe I’m spoiled.  Maybe he’s a dying breed.  Maybe I just didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it.

I am sure that the people at the Cheverolet of La Quinta didn’t know this story.  I am sure that there are people there who would do what Bob did if they had the power.  I am also keenly aware of bogus auto repairs at major dealerships that have been repeatedly exposed on the news just so that they can sell a new car.  This oil leak “snafu” is just the kind of setup that would be featured on one of these programs and since I have recently joined the ranks of the fixed income retiree (yes I played that card), my scam filter went to high alert.

I sometimes wonder about Bob.  He has seven bays, always full, minimum two week wait for appointments, but will still tow you in and have you out in a matter of days for emergency.  He doesn’t do the repairs anymore but has a staff.  He holds himself accountable for their work.  That’s why he has customers.  He provides value and quality.  He’s the In-n-Out Burger of auto mechanics.  Just imagine if he sold cars to this 31 year customer.

I think that this is an important story.  That’s why I wrote it.  That’s why I intend to share it.  I hope to find that Diamond in the Rough auto mechanic here in the Coachella Valley.  I doubt very much is will be Chevrolet of La Quinta. Still, before I add SEO links and share it on Nextdoor, I will give them an opportunity to read it. I will also share it with Bob Holshue and his son.   I believe that we can all learn to do better.  I believe that we should all want to do better.

I hope we do.

BTW…my car was supposed to be done this morning…but the part, apparently is in Tennessee.  Maybe I should have moved there.

 

A Good Day

MLB, an organization that I have supported faith fully over the years with my devotion to the Phillies took $115 out of my PayPal account.

On March 1, I woke up to one of those WTF moments.  MLB, an organization that I have supported faith fully over the years with my devotion to the Phillies took $115 out of my PayPal account.  Since my PP account is linked to my Checking Account, this created a problem.  I immediately checked my PayPal account and the transaction said, “pre-authorized” subscription.  This irritated me.  I spent $10 for a subscription mid-season and I even questioned its worth at $10.  Little did I know that it came with the fine print to automatically renew at the “Cadillac” level.  I told PayPal that it was unauthorized.  Immediately they interpreted that my account was insecure and locked it.  I had to create a new password.  I cancelled the authorization to MLB and contacted MLB.  They agreed to the cancellation and offered me a refund…in 5 to 7 business days.  That’s business speak for 2 weeks.  I cried foul.  I sent them another email saying that they have triggered a cascading event of bills that won’t get paid because I am a retired person on a fixed income (yes, I played that card) and that I would most certainly seek out legal representation, call it an acceptable business practice and have a class action suit with my name attached before the week was out.  The money was back in my account within the hour.

Last night, I was playing Starbucks Bingo.  The space I was filling was the coffee with friends space.  Now, it is important to know that there was a specific definition for “Coffee with Friends”.

  

The game said to purchase 3 handcrafted beverages in one purchase charged to a single Starbucks Card.  My daughter had a Caramel Macchiato, my 2 “Handcrafted Teas”.  Now, I know that the teas cost a whole lot less and if I were the company, I would have tried to make that clear.  This is probably not the idea they had when specifying the drinks.  Then why call the teas “handcrafted?” The handcrafted nature of the teas must be the reason that they can charge $2.30 for dropping a teabag in hot water.

Hence, a complaint  raised via Starbucks website.  An email was returned to me within 2 hours saying that they were sorry.  They gave me 5 free stars (loyalty stuff), and encouraged me to finish the contest.  This infuriated me.  I responded that they couldn’t guarantee that this wouldn’t happen again and that they are responsible for misrepresenting this contest to the entire “loyal population”.  I accused them of making this deception a standard business practice and told them that I was going to expose it to the world and particularly their loyal users, who give Starbucks interest free loans everyday, might object to this.  I told them that they needed to credit the entire sale.  I had the entire amount back within the hour.

Now you might think that this is no major victory…but think about it.  They tried to appease me with stars.  Stars have no value and no cost to them as a company.  Furthermore, 5 stars can’t do anything by themselves.  I am also a single person in a group that should not be identified as a target for a fraudulent business practice.  Also, I know that things that happen electronically can be countered with a couple of keystrokes and the nonsense that you have to wait for your money is a pile of crap.

I am going to take this as a lesson that it is time to start fighting more battles for right.  In both these instances I have argued my case passionately and logically.  I have also said that I would contact my attorney to begin a class action suit in my name.  The best part is, I didn’t have to actually go through with contacting my attorney.  My argument, my logical argument stands.  It was wonderful.

This marks a change in my approach to recovering a whole lot of money that was wrongfully taken from me.  I am going to pick up the ball and run with it.  There are much bigger fish to fry.