Free College

making an undergraduate degree or even an associates degree free would just be like extending high school for another 2 to 4 years rather than getting the young people to begin their useful productive lives sooner.

The entrance of Bernie Sanders into the presidential race has thrust the idea of free college back into the spotlight. The popular thinking on the pro side of free college is that it would level the playing field and allow all students to get the advantage of a college education. The opposition says that it is another hand out for those who don’t deserve it and it hurts the free market. They also say that there is no realistic plan to fund this education and that is true.

Where this issue is concerned, I am not an idealist nor am I a pessimist, but actually more of a pragmatist. The actual belief that college is the key to your ultimate success is far from the truth. Since a college degree is necessary to “compete” for the limited jobs that are available and the need for a skilled workforce in any field cannot be guaranteed, it is not a good bet anymore. Furthermore, the colleges themselves say that the solution is even more education. In reality, making an undergraduate degree or even an associates degree free would just be like extending high school for another 2 to 4 years rather than getting the young people to begin their useful productive lives sooner.

Maybe the key is to look at our high schools that are boring the hell out of the average and the above average student and ultimately killing any motivation from the student who is academically challenged. In Finland, a country often praised for its education practices, students decide on their career before they enter their junior year. Exercising the decision making muscle earlier in life would be a far better idea than putting it off until graduation or even beyond.

I always end my classes with students, particularly those that I don’t know with the quote, “make good choices.” I don’t even know if the students really know how to make a good choice concerning their education and their future.

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.

Cross Country

I drove my car across the country.  The car was a 2005 Satrun Vue 6 cylinder.  I was pretty confident in its ability to make the trip.  I drove the same car in the 4 cylinder version just two years ago and it had more miles on it than this one did…but…as luck would have it…it just didn’t make it.

Farewell Satrun Vue.  You have served myself and my family well.  Fond memories…even as your were towed off into the sunset.

Fraud and Big Business

On May 23, 2016, at approximately 1:00pm eastern time, my wife responded to a phone message indicating an issue with the IRS.  The person who handled her call insisted that she was subject to arrest if she didn’t clear up a tax evasion issues from her 2014 tax return.  He gave his name, badge number, dates that the IRS sent correspondence and threatened her with a public arrest and public humiliation if she didn’t follow directions to immediately clear up this balance.  Yet this whole conversation was a fraud.

 

He directed her to borrow a person’s car, and purchase prepaid Visa cards and sent them directly to your company’s locations to buy them and transfer them.  All the while he told her that if she ended the call she would be arrested.  She went to a CVS and bought as many as were allowed.  (There is apparently an awareness of potential criminal activity, but there must be acceptable losses allowed.)

 

When I finally tracked my wife down she had already acquired the cards and complied with every one of the person’s requests to stay out of jail.  I immediately knew that this was a scam and we went back to the post office to retrieve the cards that the fake IRS employee told her to mail to a bogus address. We called the police and they arrived at the post office.  They talked to the scammer online.  There is a record with the local Police Department.  We did retrieve the cards.

 

When we tried to follow the steps for cancelling these cards, we found that there was no way to get through to the prepaid companies.  All the phone numbers on the back of the cards were for automated computer responses and one of them even asked for our social security number…after just being scammed.  When we questioned a representative from OneVanilla a prepaid company, he said that the payee who received the funds was a known fraudulent business.  Further investigation found that this scam has been running for over 5 years.  The IRS even has the very name of the individual that was being used.

The use of the prepaid Visa card is part of the plan.  The perpetrator knew this and directed every step of the transaction.  He knew the location of the stores and knew where the cards were sold.  He knew how to instill fear and he attempted to wipe every trace of the transaction away by insisting that we mail the cards…to a phony IRS address.  This is known to pre-paid companies and no warning are made on the website, the cards, or at the point of sale. There is no way of accessing a human being and even as the crime was being committed we couldn’t stop it because we can’t get in touch with a human.  All totaled, 10 Visa cards totaling just under $5,000.00 were purchased and used to pay our phony delinquent tax bill to the scammer.  Of those 10, 6 were Green Dot cards and 4 were Vanilla.

 

Based on the information obtained so far, it is clear that Green Dot and One Vanilla were aware of this situation.  Additionally, Green Dot’s consumer access to their customer service is deplorable in light of this threat. Since there were no warnings about this scam that regularly utilizes Green Dot cards among others to launder their money, there is clearly a perceived liability on the part of the issuing bank.  I say perceived because it is my viewpoint and my perception matters here.

 

Since this happened almost 2 years ago and we had reported it to Green Dot and Vanilla and neither company has seen fit to respond to our case, we are pursuing a lawsuit.  These cards are sold in drug stores and dollar stores and they are displayed like candy and activated by clerks who know little more than the fact that they must be purchased in cash.  Since that time there has been a major break in one of the organizations responsible in India and there has been no restitution paid to the victims.  Still there is no warning to the consumer that they are being scammed if being called by the IRS and directed to these financial instruments because, apparently, it would cost the companies money.

 

According to Green Dot’s corporate site, they are doing quite well in returning corporate profits for those investors who don’t care for the dark side of their business or even dealing with consumers who are victimized by crooks who know their practices and know that they will continue to look the other way when presented with these crimes; yet they are as guilty as the person supplying a getaway car in a bank robbery. Financial fraud perpetrated on citizens through use of phone, mail and financial instruments is far more devious and dangerous and under reported.

 

It is for this reason that I have engaged an attorney to sue the companies that have participated in a fraud and done nothing to prevent it from happening again.  The criminals are still out there as my family members continue to get these calls.  I am suing because they are at the very least negligent if not complicit in the crimes being committed against Americans.  Clearly they have been silent on this issue because the percentage of frauds using their products represent a significant enough portion of their profits to make it part of their business plan.  Sad.

Missed an entire month

I missed an entire month of updates to my blog.  Well, in a nutshell, I was really busy.  I have been working feverishly on my house and I still have a lot of work to go.  I am taking a break and visiting in California for awhile.

More to come.

The Law of Large Numbers

How many more people would I have to expose my value to, to make that 1% put me in the top 1%?  It is a good question.  Why isn’t it asked more often?

At one time, for reasons that are too long to explain here, I acquired my NJ Insurance License for Health and Life.  As part of the course we had to learn what it is that keeps insurance companies in business particularly because we see large settlements paid out in the news and many of us know people that are insurance agents that make a fortune…or so we have been told.

The reason for this is the Law of Large Numbers.  Yes, compulsory insurance like auto and medical are requiring everyone to pay a premium regardless of their risk.  There are still far fewer claims that are paid than money collected.  Insurance profits.

In high school, when I went on my senior trip to Florida, it was my first experience with this concept although I didn’t know that I was actually learning what should be a valuable lesson.  I was told by my parents that they had exhausted their funds paying for my trip and that any money that I wanted to spend, I would have to supply for myself.  I had nothing of value to sell, and at the time, no job.  I did have a face full of facial hair (as high school males tend to get).  I had no desire to go to the Florida sun with all this hair and the day before Florida was usually Senior Crazy Day.  My craziness was to shave my face, but only half of it.  Most people didn’t believe me and since I needed money, I tried to bet people $100 that I would go through with it.

Now, the fact that no single person would bet $100 was clear, but I could get 100 people to bet me a dollar.  Although I never got to approach 100 people, I did get 30 people. There were 1600 people in my school and 30 of them paid me to do something that didn’t cost me a thing.  That was less than 2% of the population.  I didn’t even get the word out to most of them.

Today, we have access to a larger population and social media is the key.  Marketers for major companies are exploiting this through ads on these sites.  So, let’s think.  What do I have?  What can I do?  What would be valuable enough so that someone would pay me a buck for something.  If only one person in 100 would pay for something, then we need to find way more than 100.  How many more people would I have to expose my value to, to make that 1% put me in the top 1%?  It is a good question.  Why isn’t it asked more often?

Law of Large Numbers in it’s simplest form–If you take a very small percentage from a very large number, you get another very large number.

Is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks?  It is possible to make this concept pay?  I’ll get back to you on that.

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