We are Ray and Kelli, counselors at City. Job Interviews at City College. Budgeting. Colleges that change lives. Jobs. Saving lives. Kindness matters. Scholarship site. Veteran suicide awareness. "Fortnite" for money. Kindness of a young boy. Donovan Mitchell. I love being a teacher. Negotiate. Comic-Con: Write for the Entertainment Industry. Pay off 68K in debt. Good samaritan gets rewarded. Donating blood to save babies.

The veterans page: Veterans Day. Suicide awareness. A surprised 8-year-old. Honoring heroic dog. Honorably discharged veterans shop tax-free. Forever GI Bill. Father takes care of 4 children. Integrate Marine Training? Robotic legs. Costs of war. Saluting a fallen soldier. 300K Lotto winner. Vets and painkillers. Vet resources. Grandmother of veteran's family deported. Housing the homeless. Veteran finds healing through adopting a cat. Wounded Marines help others.

Empowering students to fulfill their dreams through education.



Write for the Entertainment Industry

My dream is to write for TV, so in 2017, I attended Comic-Con International, the annual popular arts extravaganza held every summer at the San Diego Convention Center. I wanted to share what I learned at a panel called “The Writer’s Journey: Breaking In and Managing a Career In Hollywood,” featuring advice from four industry professionals: Brandon Easton, Geoffrey Thorne, Ubah Mohamed, and Tony Puryear.

The Experts

Brandon Easton was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2014 for Watson and Holmes by New Paradigm Studios. His writing credits include Marvel’s Agent Carter and IDW’s M.A.S.K.

Geoffrey Thorne is a TV producer and has worked on TNT’s The Librarians and Marvel Comic’s Mosaic as well as USA Network’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Ubah Mohamed has written for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and ABC’s The Whispers.

Tony Puryear is an artist and writer and he worked on the Schwarzenegger film, Eraser and Dark Horse’s graphic novel, Concrete Park.  

Find Your Muse

Tony Puryear encouraged the audience to find their muse: “Being a writer is a holy calling. You must get in a quiet place and listen. It’s like joining a cult of one.”

Other panelists added: Never chase a trend because it leads to a brick wall. Instead, go after what you feel passionate about.

Decide what kind of writer you want to be: TV, motion picture, comics and graphic novels, or novels because they are different. Then research the business thoroughly. Find out everything you can about that industry—the roles, the terminology, the people, the ins and outs.

Be Professional

To go from “aspiring” to a “professional,” a writer needs to make time to create under any circumstances. You can’t write only when inspired. 

Finish projects and make sure you have a good product before attempting to network. When you are ready to network, have business cards ready.

Ubah Mohamed gave advice to those who bemoan the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry: “You must act like a professional. Don’t make waves. Don’t knock the developer of the show. (If something bothers you), play corporate America and make your mark by working in the industry to make changes.”



Brandon Easton emphasized the importance of study: “Don’t just watch TV, watch it critically. Look at successful work and ask yourself why the show is successful, why it appeals to people even if it doesn’t appeal to you. What are they doing right? Watch a lot of shows. Read books and see what’s working.”

He cited The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae and The Martian by Andy Weir as examples of success.  

He recommended the following books: Stephen King’s On Writing, one of the best books on the craft. Other book suggestions: Writing the TV Drama Series by Pamela Douglas and Writers on Comics Scriptwriting by Mark Salisbury, which featured industry legends such as Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane, and Grant Morrison.    

For film and TV research, take a look at Variety and Deadline Hollywood.

For literature and books, check out Publisher’s Weekly.

For comics: Newsarama, CBR, and ICV2.

For scriptwriting: Black List.


Panelists: Find your unique niche. What do you gravitate to? What sparks your interest? Once you discover this, identify a way to capitalize on it, make it your brand, build it, then market it. You are at the CEO of your company. You need to establish yourself as a character and/or someone with a unique point of view so people are invested in your product. Example: The Martian by Andy Weir is basically Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

To work in TV, move to LA and start by volunteering or interning. Be a production assistant on a project because you will learn by doing. Become a writer’s room assistant. Enter contests. Do a web series.

When marketing, use the internet: Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Instagram, Blogspot/Wordpress/Personal Website. Do Podcasts because Hollywood loves them.

In the closing segment, the panelists took questions from the audience. Geoffrey Thorne gave a clear response to an attendee’s question about whether to prioritize marketing or writing: “Don’t worry about the marketing. That will come soon enough. Focus on the writing.”

Sidebar/Comic-Con Info

Comic-Con 2018: July 19-22, 2018 with Preview Night July 18.

Program Schedule: https://www.comic-con.org/cci/programming-schedule (Not yet updated for 2018)

Portfolio Review -- Have your art portfolio reviewed by an industry professional. Info: https://www.comic-con.org/cci/portfolio-review (Not yet updated for 2018)


We Need Training to Survive Active Shooter Emergencies
(This article appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune on Dec. 11, 2015)

*Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado -- April 20, 1999: 13 killed, 23 wounded.
*Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia – April 16, 2007: 32 killed, 18 wounded.
*Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut – December 14, 2012: 26 killed.
*Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon – October 1, 2015: 10 killed, 7 wounded.
It takes law enforcement five to seven minutes on average to arrive at the scene of an active shooter incident. This can be an eternity to bystanders targeted by a person whose sole intent is to kill as many people as possible in a short period of time. This was brought to life when I participated in a recent active shooter survival training called “ALICE” (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) at San Diego City College. Thirty-five school employees hid under tables, behind chairs, a desk, or a podium during a simulated classroom lockdown. Then two police officers came into the room hurling pieces of cork.
After two minutes, the training facilitator instructed us to come out from our hiding places. How many of us had been struck by cork? I raised my hand along with twenty-nine other people. In an active shooter incident, the cork would have been bullets. How did we feel during this simulation? Like helpless victims.
A “lockdown” is the traditional method of dealing with an emergency situation in a school. Doors and windows are locked, and lights are turned off while staff and students remain in the classroom. People cannot leave the school, and no one is allowed onto the campus. This intervention may be an effective response in most emergency situations, but in an active shooter incident, a lockdown may not be enough to deter a killer.
Our facilitator, a police dispatcher trained to teach ALICE response strategies, stressed that it is important to have multiple options when confronted with an active shooter incident. Over the next three-and-a-half hours, we learned survival skills: Put the campus police number on speed-dial in our cell phones. Use the red direct-dispatch button in classrooms and the emergency boxes throughout the college to alert and communicate with campus police. Know the location of every exit in all buildings. Inform others about a danger, and evacuate when it’s safe.
If it’s not possible to leave, jam the door with a belt, tie, shoe, or jacket to prevent an intruder from coming in. Barricade an entrance with a copying machine, desks, tables, or large objects. Position people in a room to counter someone who tries to break through a door. Use fire extinguishers, chairs, coffeepots, scissors, phones, and staplers as weapons. Shout and throw objects to distract a person’s aim. Swarm and tackle a shooter with five or more people to dislodge his weapon and immobilize him. Do not pick up the weapon but keep it out of the attacker’s reach. Cover it with an upside down trash can and safeguard it until first responders get to the scene.
The ALICE training was informative and experiential. We practiced jamming doors. We barricaded entrances. We split into three groups in different classrooms to see which teams could survive during an active shooter drill. We swarmed and took down a police officer posing as an assailant.  
I have been through elementary, middle, and high school. I have earned a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees in college, and I have worked in education for over twenty years. Yet, I had never been taught these survival skills before. Why aren’t we teaching this in every school and college? Sure, it’s important to learn how to read and write. Isn’t it just as important to learn how to stay alive?   
Active shooter resources:


Money in the Bank

We have talked a lot about getting out of debt. Now let’s turn our attention to what to do when you’re free from the chains of owing. We are talking about investing your money so that it grows. The safest thing to do with your money is to simply put it in the bank, a savings account that collects interest. On the pro side, money in the bank is protected by the federal government. That means your savings account at the bank is insured up to $250K even if the bank goes under. There’s no risk of losing your money no matter what happens to the economy. And your money is fluid, meaning that it isn’t tied up for long periods of time. You can deposit or take out money without penalties.

Remember we discussed socking away 3-6 months of expenses into an emergency fund? A savings account is a good place to park that money because it’s safe and accessible. A savings account isn’t paying a lot of interest, but that’s okay. You want your emergency fund to be safe, not to make you a ton of money when the stock market goes up.

There are different types of accounts you can open at the bank and most of them are insured by the federal government. Here are some of these accounts and what they do:

·         Savings Account

·         Checking Account

·         Money Market Account

·         Certificate of Deposit

What about savings accounts at online banks? If you go into a brick and mortar bank such as Bank of America or Chase, your savings account would pay you .01 percent interest at the time I’m writing this article. That’s not a lot. If you deposited $1000 (minimum to have in your emergency fund) into your savings account at the beginning of the year, at a .01 percent interest rate, you would have a whopping ten cents of interest at the end of the year!

However, if you put that same $1000 into a savings account at an online bank such as Goldman Sachs (also federally insured and the online bank I use), which pays 1.30 percent interest, you would have $13.08 cents of interest at the end of the year. You would not have a brick and mortar store to walk into but if you are comfortable doing all your banking online, your rate of return is a lot better. How do you make deposits and withdrawals when there’s no building to walk into? I connect my online savings accounts at Goldman Sachs with my brick and mortar checking account at a local credit union and move money back and forth that way. I still have the convenience of going to a physical building and I can move money back and forth online between these accounts. It takes a few business days of processing time between the credit union and the online accounts, but that’s not a problem for me.

Again, we’re not talking about making a killing at the stock market with these savings rates. The goal with an emergency fund savings is to keep the money fluid and accessible and earn a little interest at the same time. We will be discussing other investment vehicles that can bring greater returns in future posts.


Funeral for a Neighbor

I went to a funeral for my neighbor, George T. Craig, last week. He was 77 and died from pancreatic cancer. We have lived next door to George and his wife, Sharyn, in Rancho San Diego since 2002. George wasn’t famous so people probably aren’t going to write books about him. He wasn’t an actor, although he did bear a resemblance to Bob Hope. George wasn’t an athlete or renowned musician. He wasn’t in politics and didn’t appear on television. He was a mechanical engineer who taught at San Diego State University before retiring in 2006. He was also a loving husband, a devoted father and grandfather, an avid golfer, and a man of faith who attended the same church with his wife since 1969.   

I can’t say that George and I were close. We were neighbors. We greeted each other in the morning while he was getting the newspaper and I was heading off to work. We sometimes ran into each other on Saturday afternoons on the way to the community mailbox across the street. George, in a plain T-shirt and shorts, would ask about my job at the community college, if we were keeping our enrollment up. We would chat about the weather, the scorching hot spells in San Diego that made him yearn for overcast skies and even rain. I am an introvert so it isn’t easy to get me talking, but George made the effort to engage me in neighborly small talk on a regular basis.

George would let us know when he and Sharyn were going on vacations so we could keep an eye out on their house, and we would do the same. Maybe this is a holdover from the past, a bygone era when Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best were television staples because the Craigs are the only neighbors I can recall doing this with. But if this is something considered antiquated in this “Look out for Number One” society, I say let’s turn back the clock.

When my children were younger, I would take them to George’s house first for trick or treating at Halloween. George would be the one passing out candy and he would try, often unsuccessfully, to guess our kids’ costumes. 

My wife, Quyen, loves to decorate for Christmas, and she would string lights throughout the front yard, attach illuminated Santas and sparkling snowflakes to the windowsills, weave flashing swirls around tree trunks, and even our shrubs would twinkle with holiday lights. George would rave about Quyen’s creativity, and this recognition always brought a smile to my wife’s face. On Christmas Eve, I would leave a gift-wrapped bottle of Martinelli’s on George’s porch and he would bring over a jar of Sharyn’s homemade peanut brittle on Christmas day.  

One winter, I took my son, Kevin, with me to run some errands, and Quyen was outside watering her plants with our daughter, Kristie. I had inadvertently locked the door, and Quyen was unable to get into the house. She had no way to reach me. She also had a customer scheduled that morning at the hair salon she worked at. Quyen went to George’s house and tried to call me, but my cell phone was turned off. So Quyen told George and Sharyn about her predicament and they drove her and Kristie to the hair salon in Mira Mesa, a good 20 miles from home.  

Another time, I had already left for work when the power shut down in East County. Quyen went to George to ask for help because the garage door remote wasn’t functioning. He showed her how to manually open and close the garage so she could take the kids to school.

George was that kind of neighbor; he was always there when we needed him, and I can’t tell you how much that meant to us. Rest in peace, George T. Craig. Thank you from our family for being our good neighbor and friend. We’re going to miss you.  


Debt Eliminated!

In the past few weeks, we have gone through some steps to get out of debt using The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey:

  • Develop a budget.
  • Establish an emergency fund of $1000.
  • List debts from smallest to largest.
  • Cut unnecessary expenses.
  • Pay off the smallest debt first, then move that money into the next debt on the list.
Using this method, you will wipe out the debt from your life. Once you do this, celebrate your achievement (not a trip to Europe because that will only create more debt!). Something a little less extravagant like a dinner with your family or significant other at your favorite restaurant (something you have been holding off on because you have been scrimping to pay off debts).

After you have enjoyed a hearty meal and patted yourself on the back, you will get back to the business of saving. I know what you’re thinking: “What??? But I thought I accomplished my goal.” 

You have accomplished one goal. Getting out of debt is freeing and empowering, but imagine the kind of life you can lead if you had enough money. If you won the Lotto, what would you do with your life? Retire? Travel? Become a foster parent? Run a literacy program? Write the next great American novel? Learn to play the electric guitar? Volunteer at a homeless shelter?

I’m not advocating for playing the Lotto because of the odds. But there is a way to have the financial freedom we are talking about and Dave Ramsey’s book is the roadmap to get there. 

After your debts are eliminated, increase your emergency fund from $1000 to 3-6 months of average expenses (remember you don’t have debt so this won’t take as long as you think). How much do you need in the emergency fund? Look at the budget you’ve created and see how much you spend every month. Then multiply that number by 3 or 6 depending on how safe you want to be. Why is this necessary? 

Because you want to be a Boy Scout (motto: be prepared) when life happens. An emergency fund is essential when Murphy comes calling. 

In my next post, we will discuss investing your money to have the kind of future you dream about.  


Knocking Debts Out of Your Life:

Okay, so I've discussed the problem with debt and the need to establish a budget and emergency fund. Now we need to talk about the actual debts you have. Again, this information comes from The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. List your debts from smallest to largest in terms of how much you owe (do not include your monthly mortgage or rent payment). By the way, if you have balances on more than one credit card, you might want to consolidate them into one because it's much easier to hit one target than three or four. If you don't believe me, try juggling one tennis ball, then two, then three, and four.

  1. Washer and Dryer -- $969.78 debt ($100.00 a month)
  2. Car                      -- $7470.30 debt ($377.50 a month)
  3. Credit Card/s      -- $8211.00 debt ($120.00 a month)
  4. Student Loan    --$21,000.00 debt ($300.00 a month)
Once you have listed all your debts, you are going to work on the smallest debt first. Why the smallest? Because it's the first one you can eliminate and you will actually see the progress you are making. In the above example, it's the washer and dryer. At the current rate of $100 a month, it will take ten months to pay off this debt. 

However, you are going to marshal all your resources to knock the debt off sooner. This doesn't mean that you stop making payments on your other debts. It means you stop buying anything you don't need, and yes, that includes the daily Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks. If you must have your daily coffee fix, brew your own at home and take it with you. You might have to cancel the gym membership and walk or bike at the park instead. And check out whether another cell phone company can save you money. 

Let's say that through cutting back on some unneeded expenses, you are able to devote $150 a month to your washer and dryer payment. You will eliminate this first debt in 6.5 months instead of 10. Once you can scratch that debt off your list, you take the $150 a month you used to pay off the washer/dryer and devote it to the car payment. You will be paying $527.50 instead of $377.50 a month toward the car. Instead of taking 20 months to pay off the car, it now takes you a little over 14 months. Then you work on the credit card/s, and finally, the student loan.

In my next post, we'll talk about what to do once you've reached that exalted state of euphoria called being debt free.


First Steps To Eliminate Debt:

In my last post, I wrote about the problem with debt. Now that you know why debt is poison for your financial health, we’re going to talk about solutions. Warning: the steps I’m going to provide are simple but not easy. They will take determination and sacrifice, but if it’s important to you to get out of debt, here is a way to do it.

The steps I’m going to cover come from the book, The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey. It is a New York Times Bestseller and Ramsey hosts a radio show with 13 million weekly listeners. He has personal experience with how damaging debt can be and knows what he’s talking about. 

Step 1: Set up a budget. What is a budget? It is how much money you have coming in each month and how much money you have going out. Why do you need it? If you don’t know how much you receive and how much you spend, you won’t know if your plan to get out of debt is working. You need a budget to track your money and the progress (or lack of) you’re making.

I use Excel spreadsheets to cover family income and expenses with categories such as groceries, restaurants, merchandise, gas, automobile, health and medicine, utilities, phone, Costco, and donation. I know; you’d rather have a root canal, but trust me, it’s not as daunting as it sounds. There are many digital resources out there to help you. Your bank or credit union probably has a budgeting tool. Mint is a popular app which is recommended by PC Mag, but there are others. One possible upside to being a college student is that you might not yet have a family to support so you have fewer expenses to track. The flip side is if you haven't started in your career, you also have less income to cover those expenses.

Go over your budget every month, religiously. It's the only way to see how your plan is working, and yes, the plan is to wipe out your debt. 

Step 2: Once you have set up a monthly budget, you want to work on developing a $1000 emergency fund in a savings account. Why do you need an emergency fund? Because life happens: a transmission goes out, a wisdom tooth needs to be yanked, your best friend just split up with a significant other and needs you to fly to Michigan to console. If you don’t have an emergency fund, you are stressed and your financial plan is ruined.  

How do you save for an emergency fund? Here are some ways to do it in four months. Or get a side gig

In my next post, I’m going to cover specific debts and how to start knocking them down. 


The Problem With Debt:

The amount of money Americans owe hit a staggering $12.84 trillion, increasing $552 billion from April to June, 2017. How much is a trillion? For some perspective, let’s start with a million -- $1,000,000. It’s a nice round figure and if you had this amount in the bank, you would be considered wealthy. Now add three zeroes to this number and you have a billion – $1,000,000,000 or a thousand million. In three months, Americans increased their debt $552 billion. Now take a billion, add another three zeroes, and you have a trillion – $1,000,000,000,000 or a million multiplied by a million. Americans owe nearly $13 trillion dollars to mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and auto loans. 

So what’s the problem with this? Debt is money you borrow and you have to pay interest because money isn’t free. If you buy a car and don’t have enough in savings to pay cash, you would need to take out an auto loan. The interest rate on auto loans and your credit score determines how much you pay in addition to the amount you borrow. For example, if you borrow $10,000 with 9% sales tax to buy a used car (and I recommend buying used because a new car is more expensive), and the interest rate you borrow at is 4.26 percent for 60 months, you would be paying about $202 a month for 60 months. You’re going to end up dishing out $12,120 for the $10,000 you borrowed.

Let’s say you borrow $30,000 to pay for your college tuition. If you take out a Direct Subsidized Loan at 4.45% interest and pay it back in 10 years after you graduate, your monthly payment would be $310.12. You will dole out $37,223 and the loan will cost $7,223 in interest.

Now you can try to justify a car loan in that your vehicle will take you to work or school. And your education will hopefully reward you with a higher salary in your career. What about credit card debt? Assume you have a monthly balance of $8,211 on credit cards. If you are being charged 16.69% interest, and you pay $120.00 a month, it will take you 214 months (or over 17 years) to pay off your credit cards. In that time period, you would have paid back $25,680, more than three times the balance. 

Today’s interest rates: 


Dream Job:

A student asked me this past week if being a counselor is my dream job. Now how do you answer a question like that? Normally, I don’t spend much time talking about me when I’m working with students because the focus should be on them. In this case, the student was struggling over whether to pursue her dream of being a lawyer and balancing that with the need to put food on the table as soon as possible.

I decided to share my dream (and its challenges) with her because it illuminates the struggle many of us have when it comes to picking a career. My dream job is to be a writer on a TV show, to help create a world such as M*A*S*H, where the people are trying to save lives in the middle of the death and destruction of war. To work as part of the creative team with the writers, producers, and actors who have a vision of touching people’s lives with stories. 

At the same time, I have a family to take care of so I can’t just quit my job and move us to Hollywood with the intention of pitching the studios an idea for the next M*A*S*H. Well I could but it wouldn’t sit well with my wife (who has an extended family in San Diego) or kids (Kevin and Kristie who are both comfortable in their respective schools). To uproot them with no idea whether I could support them in LA would be the height of folly and selfishness. 

I make a good living as a counselor at City College and my job provides health insurance, something vital to our family. So do I let go of my dream to be a writer?

No. I work as a counselor and help students (which I enjoy) and I write on the side. I get up at 4:30am (I admit I don’t do this every day, but I try!) and attempt to write for an hour or so before I start my other routine of preparing to go to the office. If and when I am able to support my family with writing, then I have the freedom to decide whether I want to write full-time or keep my hands in the mix at the college because I want to make a difference in students’ lives. 

Now if you are younger and don’t have a family to support, you would have more flexibility to pursue your passion. You could very well pick up and move to LA and pitch the studios your idea for the next great comedy. Or if you’re like my son, you could study the world of virtual reality and not have to worry so much whether the job has health insurance for the whole family. It doesn’t mean you choose this career over something more stable, say like accounting, but you’re in the driver’s seat. Then all you have to deal with is the fear of going after what you want!


Ideal Career -- Kid in a Candy Store:

How do you find the ideal career? As a counselor, one of the analogies I use with students is if you could be a kid in a candy store, what kind of candy would you pick? If you could choose any career and you already had the skills, knowledge, education, and experience to do it, what would you choose and why? It’s important to block out any doubts, fears, or limiting voices in this process, the subversive inner critic who screeches, “Oh, you can’t do that because you don’t have . . .” At this stage, we’re not trying to look at how realistic a career is or how long it takes to get into it. There will be time for that later. For now, we are only trying to find something that tastes great. There may be all kinds of candy in the store, but we want the one your taste buds are salivating for. Your critic might be saying, “But how much will that candy cost?” Pretend it’s your birthday, and your mommy has decided to buy you whatever kind of candy you choose.

As an example, I am a counselor. I’m also a writer. If I could be a kid in a candy store of careers, I would go back to the 1970s and 80s when a TV show called M*A*S*H was running. This comedy/drama took place during the Korean War and it depicted the people serving in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. These people tried heroically and tragically to save lives in the midst of war. Hawkeye was a skilled surgeon with a piercing wit and a heart as big as his ego. Trapper John and then BJ were Hawkeye’s sidekicks in crime, doing anything and everything to antagonize the bumbling Frank Burns, then the more cultured Charles Emerson Winchester III. “Hot Lips” started as Frank’s illicit soiree away from his wife, but over the course of the show, she evolved to become a strong, yet compassionate head nurse. Radar was a na├»ve corporal who kept the whole operation running. Klinger dressed as a woman to try (unsuccessfully) to get booted out of the military. Colonel Blake was a fisherman in disguise as a leader. And Colonel Potter was an old-school military man who kept his camp loose and efficient at the same time. 

Over the course of watching this show, these characters, fictional people, became real to me. The actors brought these characters to life but what amazes me is how the writers created these characters. They took a concept with outlines and scripts and fashioned a world that was as real to me as the friends I went to school with. I came to care about the people in this show and I watched because I cared. That’s the power of good writing.

To be in a team of people working together to create something they believe in: a TV show such as M*A*S*H, The Wonder Years, or Smallville, a motion picture such as Kramer Vs Kramer, Dead Poet’s Society, or Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, a book such as Clan of the Cave Bear, Catcher in the Rye or The Glass Castle. To tell a heroic or worthwhile story. To entertain and shine a light on the problems that plague us. To give us hope that the struggle is worth it. That’s what writers do. That’s the candy I would choose. 


Protect Yourself from Cyber Crime:

You have probably heard that Equifax, one of the main credit services, has suffered a hack of their system that might have compromised 143 million social security numbers. This means data thieves could have access to sensitive information that can be used to steal people's identity or credit. What can you do?

This Business Insider article is a life raft in a sea of turbulence. It tells you not to panic but to take wise precautions such as finding out if your data might have been exposed, using secure passwords, and monitoring your financial accounts every day.

If you are considering a credit freeze, here is some information on how to do it and some FAQs.

I have also included an article by Brian Krebs, a former reporter for the Washington Post, who urges people to initiate a credit freeze and he explains why.

I have provided an article from Consumer Reports and Yahoo! Finance about why a credit freeze may not be enough. The writer delves into health insurance, tax refunds, and your driver's license as three areas of concern and how to protect yourself.


Tribute to a Colleague:

My counseling colleague and blog partner, Kelli Turpin, is moving to North Carolina. Her last official day at City will be September 6, 2017. Kelli has worked in the counseling department at City for 17 years, and she has helped so many students. She is a dedicated counselor who has worked with active duty military at a local base and she has also guided veterans at City. She is someone I go to when I need to check the accuracy of information. In other words, she knows her stuff. But not only is she an outstanding counselor, she is a fantastic writer, editor, and blogger. If not for her willingness to give this blog idea a try, I probably wouldn't have launched it, so I give her credit for its existence. She has given of her own time to write articles for this blog, and she has an open invitation to post from out of state whenever she wants. That's how much I appreciate her writing and contributions to this blog. I hope we will continue to see her writing here.

We will miss her experience, dedication, and student advocacy. But most of all, we will miss her presence. It won't feel the same at City without her.

Raymond Wong


The Courage of Taylor Swift:

  • A person is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds in America.
  • 1 in 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape.
  • 9 out of 10 rape victims are female.
  • From 2009-2013, 63,000 children a year were sexually abused. 
Source: https://www.rainn.org/statistics/scope-problem (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network). 

I spoke recently to my thirteen-year-old daughter, Kristie, about Taylor Swift’s court battle with former radio DJ, David Mueller, who allegedly groped Swift while posing for a picture at a promotional backstage meet-and-greet in 2013. I talked to Kristie because I want my daughter to know that sexual assault is serious and how someone reacts to it does matter. After the alleged incident, Swift conveyed what happened to the people closest to her, and Mueller was dismissed from his job by the radio station that employed him after they received a complaint from a member of Swift’s team.

Mueller filed a lawsuit in 2015 against Swift claiming he lost his job over an incident that didn’t happen and asked for three million dollars in damages. Swift did not settle out of court and counter-sued for a symbolic $1 to state her case in a courtroom. 

In court, Mueller’s attorney, Gabriel McFarland, grilled Swift about the incident, but the singer was unflappable. According to CNN, here are some of her responses to the opposing lawyer: 

“What Mr. Mueller did was very intentional.” 

“I am critical of your client for sticking his hand up my skirt and grabbing my ***.”

“I am not going to allow you or your client to make me feel in any way that this is my fault, because it isn’t.”

“Gabe, this is a photo of him with his hand up my skirt – with his hand on my ***. You can ask me a million questions – I’m never going to say anything different. I never have said anything different.”

I cannot know exactly what occurred at the meet-and-greet because I wasn’t there. I did see the picture online of Mueller, Swift, and the DJ’s girlfriend at the time, Shannon Melcher. It looks to me that Mueller’s hand is positioned behind Swift in a way that he could very well have groped her. 

The jurors decided in favor of Taylor Swift and awarded her the $1, but the money isn’t what’s important. She stood up for herself, and yes, as a famous singer, it must be stated she has resources unavailable to most people. But she didn’t have to go to court. She didn’t have to testify. She didn’t have to face the barrage of questions from Mueller’s attorney. She didn’t have to publicly live through a traumatic incident again. But she chose to and I admire her for that.  

Victims of sexual assault need to know they are not to blame for the inexcusable actions of a perpetrator, and Swift declared this during her testimony in unflinching terms for all to see and hear. By going to court, Swift is saying she will not succumb to sexual assault. It’s wrong and no one should have to endure it. She could not set a better example for my daughter. 

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
24 Hour Access and Crisis Line: 1-888-724-7240
San Diego City College Mental Health Counseling: 619-388-3055


A 30K Car-Buying Mistake:

If you're thinking of purchasing a car, read my article in the Penny Hoarder about how buying the wrong car cost my family over $32,000. 


Do What You Enjoy:

My sixteen-year-old, Kevin, is really into video games and he is drawn to one called Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO). While I’m not thrilled with him playing a first-person shooter game, I have reluctantly come to realize my son is old enough to choose the kind of recreation he wants to take part in as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or land him in jail.

Recently, Kevin told me he wants to put together videos of himself playing CS: GO and post them on YouTube. Now you have to understand where I’m coming from: I’m almost old enough to qualify for senior discounts at the Goodwill, so when I was a child, there were no computers in the house.  People talked on a rotary dialed landline and the Atari video game “Pong” was making its debut when I was ten.  Yes, this makes me feel ancient, and technology is not my strong suit.

I don’t text and I own a TracFone that isn’t even a smart-phone. I use it to make and receive calls from my family and I purchase pre-paid minutes for $19.99 in three-month intervals. I can guess the phrases flashing in your mind: “out-of-touch” and “cheapskate,” but I prefer the terms, “traditional” and “frugal.” So when Kevin told me he wanted to post videos on YouTube, my first question was about how much it would cost. A sense of relief swept over me when he told me there wouldn’t be a fee.

Then I needed to know how he intended to make money with this new idea. Our conversation went like this:

Me: “If you really want to post videos on YouTube, I suggest you look at the people who get the most views on their sites.”

Kevin: “Why?”

Me: “If you’re going to make money at it, you have to see how people do that.”

Kevin: “Who said I want to make money with this?”

Me: “Why do it if you’re not going to make money at it?”

Kevin: “I watch video games because it helps me relax. I play because it’s fun. I want to post videos on YouTube because it seems like it would be a fun thing to do.”

I stared at my son in silence. As a parent, I was so focused on Kevin’s career prospects with video games, I had lost sight of why he spends so much time doing it—the same reason I used to go out and ride bikes with my friends after school when I was a kid: I just enjoyed it.  Lesson learned, courtesy of my son.

Postscript: I did some research on the video game industry. I was flabbergasted to learn that video games pull in more revenue than the motion picture and music industries combined! I did a little more digging and came up with some counter statistics, but I must admit that the skyrocketing video game sales are eye-opening.


Making a Living in Theater:

In a previous post, I shared my daughter’s disappointment in not making it into Honors Drama in her middle school. Kristie is all of thirteen so a lot of things could happen between now and the time she is ready to start sending out resumes. At various times in her life, she wanted to be a doctor, work in a nonprofit, or be involved with nature and animals. Still, if she does decide to become an actress, I wanted to find out a little more about this field. It is a well-worn adage that acting is a difficult way to make a living so a few questions came to my mind. How difficult is it to actually make it in this profession? Would she need to supplement her income? What are some ways to do that? Would she encounter any particular challenges due to her gender or ethnicity?

Here’s what I found out. It is an understatement to say it is hard to make a living as an actor, but some people are able to make money at it. This article from Backstage.com by Piyali Syam was particularly helpful. The author provided a number of ways to earn rent money through acting, including Web series, YouTube, commercials, voiceover, cruise ship jobs, and theme parks. 

Most actors supplement their income through side jobs and this article from Balance.com by Phil Breman listed several ways to do that: Bartender, office temp, script reader, and process server, among others. 

People who work in talent agencies have a unique perspective because an agent’s income depends on the success of the actors she represents. Wendy Alane Wright is a talent manager in Hollywood. In her article, she cites the following statistics: “So many people who go into acting think they are going to become famous stars. But the truth is almost everyone who is an actor will NEVER be a star. .0000005% will be a star and 1% of actors will work consistently. The rest? Well they will work at projects you NEVER hear of.”

John Kolinofsky is the president of Callidus Agency, a talent agency in Dallas, Texas. In his article on LinkedIn, he writes, “85% of movie actors make less than $5000.00 a year.”

Stefanie O’Connell is an actress and has been in a production in Madison Square Garden. For that, she made $527 a week. In her article, she gives the following numbers: “According to NPR, of the 49,000 members of Actors' Equity Association, the professional theatre actors union, around 17,000 are estimated to work in any one year. Of the members who do work, the median income from work in theatre is approximately $7,500 a year!”

And if that’s not bad enough, it appears the casting couch is very real in the entertainment field. This article in The Telegraph uncovers the seedy nature of the industry, where a lot of young women are exploited.

But the news isn’t all depressing. In this Forbes article, Alexandra Talty spotlights Rachel Lin, an Asian actress who lives and works in New York. Lin talks about the glass ceiling for Asian actors, but she says the situation has improved and there is reason for hope.

After reading these articles, I think if my daughter wants to become an actress, she has a lot of hard work ahead. At the same time, if she goes into acting because she has a passion for it, then I will support her. She just better find a good day job!

For those thinking about acting, here are some real-world statistics to help in your career decision making: 


A Letter to a Student:

We had a Student Success Day for new students to City College on June 30th, and I worked with a lady (I’m going to call her Claire) at an education planning session who said she went to an earlier workshop we facilitated called “Identify Your Career.” Claire said it made her think about passion and purpose and what she should pursue. She thought of being a softball coach but she was afraid and had some doubts about her age. She looked to be in her early forties. 

At the education planning sessions, we have a lot of students we need to work with to develop a two-semester plan, so we don’t have time to do career planning. I had to advise her to schedule an hour appointment with a counselor at a later date to look at her career in more depth. It was hard for me to tell her this because she was really struggling with whether to choose coaching as her career, but I couldn’t take the time to work with her there. 

I hope that Claire scheduled an appointment to talk with a counselor but if she didn’t, here is what I would have wanted to convey:

Dear Claire,

I know it can be scary to think about going after something you feel passionate about. From my perspective, if the thought of being a softball coach brings up some fears, that’s not necessarily a bad sign. The jitters may be because you’re on the right track. If you are thinking about a career you’ve never done before, some anxiety is perfectly normal and expected. The fact that you’re nervous tells me it’s important to you, and I hope you pick a career that really means something to you because you’ll put more effort and energy into it. You’ll put your heart and soul into it and you’ll make a difference to the players you’re coaching. 

And I suspect that some of the prospective players who will want to be on your team may experience the same kinds of fears and doubts you are currently having. Is it something they can really do? Do they have what it takes? Will they be good enough? You will understand these fears because you have gone through this yourself, and it will make you a better coach. 

As to the age issue, you can’t let that get in your way. Banish the thought that you’re too old because it will only hold you back. There is no age limit to being a softball coach, just as there isn’t one to become a counselor, a teacher, a mentor, a guide, or a friend and you will be all of these as a coach. 

Go and talk to some softball coaches because they are the ones doing the work you want to do. Find out how they became coaches, and I suspect you will discover they harbored some of the same doubts and fears when they started out. You will also find people who share your passion and you will be inspired by the fact that there are real people doing what you dream about. 

And when you talk to some softball coaches, ask someone you really connect with to mentor you, because even coaches need some guidance.

Uncover what it takes to become a softball coach, and then go after it with everything you have. 

And when you’re a coach, I hope you come back and tell me how it feels to be living your dream.



A Flair for the Dramatic:

My daughter, Kristie, is thirteen and has participated in drama the last two years in middle school. She recently tried out for “Honors Drama” for the upcoming school year and didn’t get selected.  

Kristie was disappointed, especially when one of her friends did get chosen for Honors Drama. The glum expression on my daughter’s face told me how she felt when she checked the message board on the computer and her name wasn’t on it. 

Kristie tends to be quiet in school. She gets good grades because she studies hard, but comments from teachers are usually along the lines of, “Joy to have in class. Excellent effort, quiet, and dependable.”

I don’t have a problem with Kristie being quiet. I’m an introvert myself, so I understand my daughter’s personality. I don’t need her to be an outspoken candidate for student body president or a rah-rah cheerleader for the football team. I’m fine with Kristie just being herself but I’ve come to realize this can hamper her ambitions to become the next Jennifer Lawrence. 

My wife, Quyen, and I have been to a number of Kristie’s drama performances, and I’m slightly biased, but I think our daughter is pretty good. She remembers her lines, and she nails the dance steps in her routines. The thing is, she has a quiet voice and she isn’t animated to the extreme. This works against her in a field where flair and exuberance are the calling cards for success. 

It’s funny because Kristie can be expressive. I’ve seen it firsthand, and it usually involves her interactions with me. At home, I often chide her for spending so much time on video games. When I suggest she spend some “quality time” with me instead, she immediately goes into Mixed Martial Arts mode and goes ballistic on her poor dad.  

She unleashes a series of play-jabs, snap-kicks, and rapid-fire punches until I scamper away to keep from getting pummeled. Kristie gives chase and when she catches me, she goes into her best World Wrestling Federation maneuvers: elbow to the head, knee to the spine, and uppercut to the chin. She will declare, “Take that, Daddy, and how about this!” as she lands yet another roundhouse kick. 

So I know my daughter can be dramatic. She just needs to take her father to her auditions and start pounding away.


Making Money by Playing Video Games:

In my last blog post, I wrote about my son, Kevin, and his passion for video games. I also shared my ambivalence about encouraging him to make this a career because I have doubts about how viable this is. I mean, would an employer actually pay him or anyone else to play video games?

To find out, I did a little research. According to this article from MoneyPantry.com, there are six ways to make money playing video games:

  1. Test video games
  2. Sell “Gold” within a game
  3. Play in eSport tournaments
  4. Record “Let’s Play” videos
  5. Teach about video games
  6. Write about video games
The author of the above article makes it sound easy but at the end, he admits that making money at playing video games is probably more of a side job than a full-time career.

I’m not sure if gaming aficionados have a fascination with the number “six” but the next article by Joel Lee also provides six methods to turn gaming into cash. What I appreciate about this article is the author is honest about the fact that making money at gaming is difficult, but he tells you his method, explains its challenges, and shows you how to begin.

Joel Lee’s tips:

  1. Live stream
  2. Guides
  3. Podcasts or videos
  4. Competitive gaming
  5. Games journalism
  6. Games testing

In an article from howtogeek.com, Michael Crider outlines how to make money playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a game my son actually plays. 

Crider’s suggestions:

  • Trade in-game items for cash
  • Trade in-game money for real money
  • Create items of your own
  • Legitimate alternatives
  • Less legitimate alternatives
Crider warns about the dubious nature of the “grey market,” selling game items outside the game for money. 

All in all, it is possible to make money at gaming, but the caveat is that it isn’t easy. If my son really wants to make a go of gaming for bucks, he’s going to have to scramble, get good at it, and find his niche, which is what he would have to do in any other career. He definitely loves playing video games. If he pursues a career at it, I just hope he can do so and still maintain the sense of enjoyment from playing.


A Parent's Dilemma:

My son, Kevin, is 16 and he just finished the 10th grade. It’s hard to imagine him that old. It seemed like just yesterday we were playing Bakugan Brawl, Yu-Gi-Oh, or racing his Hot Wheels cars down our driveway. It didn’t seem long ago that I saw him riding his Razor scooter in front of our house. Now, my wife, Quyen, and I are talking to our son about getting his driver’s permit.

Kevin just started a Japanese class at Grossmont College this summer because he found out taking one college course is equivalent to two years of high-school credit. He is really into Anime so he jumped at the opportunity to take Japanese.

I have asked him about studying Chinese, and Quyen has suggested Vietnamese but it was like trying to get him to the dentist for a root canal. This isn’t the case with the Japanese course. Kevin is taking it with a friend from high school, and they stay on campus after class to do their homework. Our son makes flashcards to go over his vocabulary, and there are times he chooses to study Japanese instead of watching YouTube videos at home. What I’ve learned is that Kevin puts a lot more effort into his work when he chooses the class. 

Our son is at the age where he is beginning to think about a career and I cannot tell you what he is going to end up doing. He and I are so different. I studied social work and counseling to find out what makes people tick, and after earning a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s in counseling, I’m still not sure. 

Kevin isn’t into solving the riddle of the human mind. He is into video games, and if he could somehow manage it, he would probably make a career out of playing. I don’t want to douse his flame, but I have a hard time picturing an employer paying someone to play League of Legends or Counter Strike: Global Offensive

The counselor in me wants to encourage him to pick a career he loves. The parent in me wants him to study a subject that is going to allow him to eat every once in a while whenever he decides to live on his own. 

That’s the struggle I’m dealing with: encourage my son to pursue his passion or try to steer him toward something more realistic? I’m not sure I have the answer.


Appointments and Quick Questions:

My name is Ray Wong, and I am the Co-Chair of Counseling at San Diego City College with Edwin Hiel. I started counseling at City in 1994. Since the beginning of my tenure, counselors have met with students on “1-Hour Appointments” for planning and 10-Minute “Walkin” to answer short questions. The problem has been that we have not been able to provide enough Appointments to meet the student demand during registration time. So students try to get their needs met on Walkin. Counselors cannot do effective career or educational planning in a 10-minute timeframe, and we have too many students to provide an Appointment to every student who needs one at registration.

So what generally happens is students sign up for Walkin because Appointments fill up so quickly. The line for Walkin extends to two hours or longer, and students wind up seeing a counselor for 10 minutes to help select classes. I have long felt this to be an ineffective counseling model because it leaves students without a plan and counselors are not able to provide the kind of comprehensive career and educational planning that really helps students. This is frustrating for both students and counselors.  

In an attempt to address this problem, the counseling department is piloting a "block schedule" for “Appointments” and “Quick Questions” this summer in order to provide more Appointments. More Appointments means additional comprehensive services to more students, but it also means we have to limit “Quick Questions” to certain times of the day. We hope that you will be patient with us because we believe providing more appointments will lead to better service delivery.

What we have been doing in the past hasn’t been working, so we’re going to try something different. We owe it to our students to at least try. Here is our "block schedule" for summer 2017:

Mondays and Tuesdays
  8:00am to 10:00am  Appointments
10:00am to 11:30am Quick Questions
11:30am to   2:30pm   Appointments
  2:30pm to   4:00pm Quick Questions
  4:00pm to   6:00pm Appointments
  6:00pm to   7:00pm Appointments & Quick Questions
Wednesdays and Thursdays
  8:00am to 10:00am  Appointments
10:00am to 11:30am Quick Questions
11:30am to   2:30pm   Appointments
  2:30pm to   4:00pm Quick Questions
  4:00pm to   5:00pm Appointments
  5:00pm to   6:00pm Appointments & Quick Questions
Friday Schedule Only
  8:00am to 10:00am  Appointments
10:00am to 11:30am Quick Questions
11:30am to   2:30pm   Appointments
  2:30pm to   3:00pm Quick Questions

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