Life happens! I’m too involved with around-the-house activities, work load, and course work for classes I’ve taken, and don’t spend enough time posting here on my personal blog. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are also serious distractions where most of my Internet profile and focus has been, much to the disdain of this blog.
But, I am seriously thankful for my life and all my family, friends, loved ones; for my continued health; for my work life and having a fairly positive and fulfilling job during all the economic turmoil over these past few years; being able to retire at any time; having a roof over my head and food on the table; being able to give back a few dollars to the community to help those less fortunate specifically:
I am thankful that I live in this great nation where I have freedom of speech, protected by the law and that protection paid for time-and-time again with the lives and blood of our brave patriots. That free speech allows me to get on my Beely Box and blather away about things that are important to me, and hopefully a few of the occasional readers of these words.
So, here’s to the ending of 2013 and all the crazy, wonderful, horrible, disastrous, magical, life-affirming events that we have witnessed over the course of this year. I have great hopes for humanity and the coming year – let’s raise a toast to the old and welcome the new!
Happy New Year!
We recently purchased a 2012 Toyota Prius Hybrid from one of the local Toyota dealers here in town. We knew we wanted a Prius and had been planning on buying one for almost a year. We had even previously used Enterprise Car Rental and rented a Prius for a drive to Phoenix (200 mile trip) and used our American Express "points" as a voucher to pay for the rental. So, in essence, one long-ass test drive that we paid for – all good because it solidified our decision about buying a Prius.
My wife was very clear, expressing the fact that going to a dealer and getting jerked around about prices, options, total costs, etc. was not one of her favorite things in the world. I think the phrase, "When monkeys fly outta my ass, backwards!" was uttered a few times while discussing buying a car. I did some thinking and looked into Costco and its auto purchasing program. We ended up using Costco for the front-end purchasing agent/broker because they really did a pre-approval for the dealership, got us a sweet discount and additional discounts for warranty and service extension, and gave us a $50 voucher towards service, parts, or accessories at the dealer. The dealer's Costco specialist said the dealership likes the caliber of people who come through Costco and they turn out to be reliable, well-informed customers – obviously makes life easier for the sales (Paul Anthony) and finance team.
All-in-all, the experience was pretty great. I love our Prius and am learning new things about it every day. We chose the Package 2 Prius Hybrid – not top-of-the-line, but very comfortable, a good sound system with Bluetooth (so we can connect our Android phones and make calls through the stereo system), and gets fantastic mileage. My one-way trip to work is 11.7 miles and the trip odometer/information display panel shows I got 62.7 miles per gallon one time! Typically, I get between 49 and 55 MPG on each leg of the ride to/from work. I'm a happy camper.
I am officially a huge fan of Precision Toyota (Tucson). They emailed me about their New Owners' Dinner and Training event and I went there tonight. Had a Mexican buffet dinner and sat around and Precision introduced different departments, explained the services offered in their respective areas. They hire local people for service, lot attendant workers, parts and accessories department and it appears that they try to promote from within. Everybody went outside to ask questions about their car with the service folks. I went back in to the media/presentation area afterwards and filled an event exit survey. The Parts/Accessories lady then offered me a choice of a gift card – walked out with $25 Starbucks coffee card. Sweet! So, I'm a big fan of Precision Toyota and I'm not being paid or sponsored by them to rant like this.
Local Tucson PBS station, KUAT/Arizona Public Media, has this story on the St. Francis Cooling Center - sheltering relief for the homeless from the Tucson summer sun and sometimes intense monsoon storms. Breaks my heart that our elders are on the street, dealing with the debilitating sun and heat – the centers are a great place to relax, grab a nap, get a free bag lunch (courtesy of the Tucson Community Foodbank) and lots of cold fluids.
As the incredible Linda Hunt, in "The Year of Living Dangerously" in her role as Billy Kwan said, "What then must we do? We must give with love to whoever God has placed in our path."
The Cooling Center is doing it – serving their fellow humans in great need. The Center is a project of the Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness. The Summer Sun Sites page has a PDF file describing the shelter sites available in Tucson.
My wife and I are spending part of our summer vacation in the California seaside city north of San Diego called Encinitas. This isn’t some travel-log entry or “what I did over my summer vacation” back-to-school essay, just some observations about this lovely town and the choices the town has made about its older merchant area.
We drove here from Southern Arizona and felt immediate relief from the oppressive desert heat as we drove through San Diego and our Encinitas destination. We settled in to our hotel and the next morning had a real chance to look the older section of town over. The biggest thing that struck me was that there are no franchised businesses in the older Highway 101 Encinitas 101 strip.
Old Highway 101 Business section of Encinitas, CA
Well, none with the exception of the Whole Foods market which is a perfect fit in the thriving area. The few franchised businesses (Starbucks Coffee and Subway sandwich shop) located at the further edge of the older business district, mixed in with smaller businesses. We did find local shops for surfboarding (a really big part of the Encinitas culture), vintage clothing, body work/massage therapy/New Age revitalization day spas available two or three to a city block, lots of eateries and a few coffee shops. All-in-all, a mostly conscious choice on the Encinitas community to keep out the big money and crap franchises that make up so much of urban and suburban America commercial business landscape, a choice to preserve the basics of what commerce means. Or does it?
What does Encinitas gain when it keeps out franchised businesses from the older Highway 101 strip? What does it lose from the opportunities provided by the influx of franchised businesses? I gave this a little thought and came up with some ideas.
Upside of no franchised businesses:
- Variety of retail offerings to shoppers.
- More control and local autonomy for the local merchants – no franchising parent company saying how and how not to run the business, not having to worry about a foreign corporate “image” to maintain.
- Shoppers spend their hard-earned money with a different mind-set: they aren’t just consuming and purchasing goods and services, they’re helping their community by injecting their money into local businesses.
- Freedom to pay employees a livable wage.
- Business owner really takes part in the American Dream with independent business ownership.
- Shoppers are wandering through impersonal, bland aisles of “big box stores” like Wal-Mart and Target. Local businesses must be inventive and creative with product merchandising, keep customers engaged and enthused about their shopping experience.
- Being a part of a community of independent merchants and not a corporate shill.
The benefits of franchised businesses:
- Shoppers benefit from name brand recognition and product awareness.
- Shoppers feel product quality and availability is consistent with past experiences with the name brand.
- Businesses can take part in volume pricing, which often means lower prices for shoppers.
- Businesses have great media market penetration through connections to parent company.
- Parent company of business typically has well-developed training procedures, human resource standards, employee recognition and potential for advancement.
- Parent company has salary compensation level standards and legal muscle to enforce payroll disputes.
- Mind you, as soon as your leave the old Highway 101 business area and travel past the Interstate 5 Freeway ramps/overpass, you are presented with the all-too-familiar site of standard American suburban commerce: strip malls with all the familiar franchised stores consumers recognize and where consumers willingly drop their hard-earned dollars.
Parking is easier than the older business strip along Highway 101. There are huge parking lots surrounding the strip malls for businesses favorites such as Target, Best Buy, Ralph’s Foods, Soup Plantation, Barnes and Noble, PetsMart. Smaller chain stores snuggle up to the “big box stores” which act as “anchors” for the shopping center. The smaller chain stores hope to survive and have visibility so consumers will happen upon the smaller stores during their big box store visit – a commerce version of the symbiotic relationships found in nature.
My home town, Tucson, has an older and funky business section called 4th Avenue. Same issues as the Encinitas Highway 101 stretch: small businesses, almost no chain/franchise businesses, poor on-street parking.
I hope more shoppers can have the opportunity to shop in their city’s respective independent business district and not always resort to being stuck shopping the strip mall where everything is bland and the same.
Here's a press release that was forwarded to me by the Pima County Democratic Party about a new "policy" Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) has published regarding community and students' participation in a long-standing observance/celebration of the life and great work of the late Cesar Chavez.
Yesterday I received a press release that I thought you should read. TUSD once again has no respect for the First Amendment and the civil rights of its citizens or students. Please call the TUSD school board and administration and let your feelings be known.
What's next – TUSD banning people from discussing Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement?”
Chair, Pima County Democratic Party
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: March 29, 2012
Contact: Marisol Flores-Aguirre
The Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board Condemns
Efforts by the Tucson Unified School District to Block the Celebration of the
12th Annual Cesar Chavez March and Rally
Tucson, Arizona – The Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board (MASCAB) condemns efforts by the Tucson Unified School District to prohibit the long standing celebration of the birthday of Cesar E. Chavez at Pueblo High School.
For over a decade, The Cesar E. Chavez Holiday Coalition has worked to plan and coordinate the Cesar Chavez March and Rally. The coalition, since its’ inception, has collaborated with TUSD to celebrate the life and legacy of this civil rights icon by staging the march at Pueblo High School on Tucson’s south side.
The event has become a regular community tradition, yet this year TUSD administration has attempted to block the staging of the event by setting impossible preconditions on public access to Pueblo High School.
TUSD has demanded there be no reference to the elimination of the successful Mexican American Studies program, an issue that has deeply affected the Latino community. They have also demanded that no disparaging comments be made about District administration, and that an emcee of their choice be selected to enforce this inexcusable level of censorship.
The Chavez event organizers have opted to celebrate the tradition of free speech, and will be staging the march at St. John’s Catholic Church at 602 W. Ajo Way on Saturday, March 31st at 9:00am.The Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board is appalled by the censorship TUSD has elected to impose on this traditional celebration. We sincerely hope that TUSD administration will take the time to reconsider the treatment of all its’ students and the community at large.
First is was the head of Arizona Department of Education, John Huppenthal, who demanded that students not hear about Mexican-American heritage, that students would turn against whites and be incited to do what? Huppenthal also demanded that TUSD board cancel classes teaching about this important history, especially important for the community that TUSD serves.
I agree with the writer - call the TUSD school board and administration and let your feelings be known about censorship. You'd think that Gov. Jan Brewer, and John Huppenthal have requested that TUSD fight any and all types of information about Cesar Chavez and his activism. Hopefully, the Mexican-American community in Tucson/TUSD boundaries will gather to oust these bunch of bigots who are censoring students/making these proclamations.
Fantastic! Warren Jeffs put away for life for being a child molester and serial rapist. But, what about the community that permitted him to continue his actions? What about his bat-shit crazy wives and brother-husbands who condoned his monstrous behavior? How can a person of conscience stand by and do nothing, knowing he and others were abusing little girls and young women? That sickens me almost as much as what Jeffs did.
Does America now stand by and say the deed is done, we have justice? Or, does America continue and go after the whole damned sick and twisted, evil cult that is FLDS? Don't all the recordings and documents prove the complicity of other cult members? Shouldn't everyone involved, men and women, be charged with being accessories to the crimes Jeffs was charged and convicted? Shouldn't all properties and financial wealth be seized and held in escrow for the young girls and young women who must now live with the actions and inaction of the adults in their cult "community"? These girls will need serious psychological counseling for many years to come and support from social service organizations to deal with their pregnancies and babies born out of these unholy unions.
We should have learned numerous times before about dynamic leaders and their followers: Jim Jones and Jonestown, Applewhite and the Heaven's Gate whackos in San Diego. But do we do anything? Is the Branch Davidian/David Koresh episode of child molestation and rape not a powerful enough lesson that we cannot look the other way? We must protect the innocent and not allow these evil actions go unpunished.
KOLD TV coverage of life sentence verdict for FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs
I had a thought driving down North 1st Ave as it turns into Euclid Ave south of Grant on the way to Speedway this fine July 2011 afternoon.
First Ave to Euclid – from Grant Rd. to Speedway Blvd.
I noticed an increase in the amount of graffiti all over the walls around houses, duplexes and apartments. Why would any prospective UofA student have any desire to live anywhere along that section of Euclid? A student moving here to go to school would take a look at all the prospective separate houses and duplexes, apartment houses with walls covered in summertime juvenile delinquent grafitti and say, "No freakin' way am I living in an area filled with gangsta tags! This is so ghetto, Buffy! Oh my god!"
On the face of things I would almost agree with this fictional student. But another thought crossed my mind. What if the young, native Tucsonans decided to intentionally put up the grafitti in a play to discourage incoming residents and drive away absentee landlords? Kind of like a reverse gentrification? Drive property values down so local people can afford local housing? They have pride in the housing their grandparents and great-grandparents help to build and are tired that native Tucsonans cannot afford to live in neighborhoods they helped found and develop.
If you can get past the pathetic display of juvenile delinquency and teriitorial bullshit, you can enjoy the houses for their Craftsman style from the late 1920s through the 1940s and 1950s. Wonderful examples of truly fine design and great Tucson home building.
Of course, this argument has a flip side: if you intentionally degrade an environment to make it less attractive to others, you are also making it less desireable for your own habitation. I just don't get the mentality behind graffiti and the senseless defacing of the city. Anarchists? Frustrated idiots with out the balls to have a creative outlet for their anger and frustration? Or simply deranged sociopaths who take great joy in bringing down the quality of life for everyone. I'm voting for the latter.
I’ve had this vision in my head about buses, light-rail vehicles (LRVs), electric trolley buses running up and down the streets of Tucson. I expound upon my vision to anyone who will listen. Could that be why I don’t have many friends? Be a witness to my vision…
I lived in San Francisco for almost nine years from 1977 to 1986. I didn’t own a car for almost six years during that time and I loved it! I lived and worked and went to school in San Francisco, taking street cars, light rail, electric buses and diesel buses all over The City. I could stay out late, get home in the middle of the night and still be able to catch a bus. I visited S.F. for a few days this fall and rediscovered how creative San Francisco is, how much of a “can do!” kind of spirit is still alive. This is cool and totally awesome!
I was visiting S.F. and was staying at my brother-in-law’s house in the Bernal Heights area and had taken the public transportation to that area many times in past years. The bus to that part of town was previously a diesel bus that strained to get up the steep hill to that neighborhood after winding its way through other areas such as the Fillmore, Western Addition, the Castro and Noe Valley, and down to Bayshore Blvd. These latter neighborhoods have fairly narrow streets, some steep hills–very tough on fueled buses. Turns out that S.F. decided to convert the diesel bus line to an electric trolley line–no easy task as I will describe.
An electric trolley bus in San Francisco typically has a set of poles attached to the roof of the bus. Each pole is connected to the rear of the bus via a cable on a reel. (I don’t know the terminology, please bear with me.) Both poles connect to a pair of wires running overhead that provide a connection to the electricity necessary to generate the power for the electric bus. The overhead wires are supported by guides and tracks around corners and intersections with other electric vehicles. The electric trolleys are quiet and clean running. They are quiet inside for passengers and quiet outside for residents of the neighborhoods the trolleys pass through. You hear the wires singing as the bus approaches and occasionally the wires rattling and shaking as the bus passes by. No diesel fumes in the air. No loud diesel engine grinding by while straining up a hill. The electric trolley bus is powerful: a bus full of people and it just plows its way up a hill–piece of cake! Can of corn! Easy as pie! More pictures and descriptions of the history of these buses in San Francisco found here and a great article on Wikipedia here.
So, the city of San Francisco decided to retrofit this bus line with electricity and run the trolley through the narrow streets of the neighborhoods. This is sheer gumption! Someone had a huge set of cajones, let me tell you. It is quite a feat of engineering to design the system for this trolley, string up all the wires and support guides, connect all the tracks through the intersections so the bus can pass through and not loose its source of electrical power from the overhead wires. Brilliant! If San Francisco can overcome all of the obstacles in its path and put a clean running, quiet, environmentally sound bus line in place, why the hell can’t a city like Tucson do the same?
Tucson has these ridiculously wide streets for almost all of its arterial surface streets to carry all the cars commuting to work with single passengers. (Look at the lines of cars flying by and count how many of the them have more than one person in the car: 85%? 90%? 95%?) Most of these streets (Broadway, Speedway, 22nd St., Oracle, to name a few) have an existing right lane that is usually marked as a bus lane. How simple it would be to engineer the supports for the wires, string up the electrical system, put a bunch of new, clean buses on those lines. Tucson would have to have the vision of a city with fewer cars on the city streets, a city with a conscience: using less fossil fuels for private citizens to go between home and work. Tucson would have to promote the hell out of a project like this to get an increase in ridership, get people out of their cars for their commute.
So, where is the electrical power coming from? Yeah, Tucson does recover methane gases from the landfills and then uses the methane to be burned and power the turbines that produce electricity. That’s one way. How about passive solar array panels in “fields” around the city or drawing power from the Springerville solar project in the White Mountains that Tucson Electric Power owns.
Of course, there will be the whiners and nay-sayers who state that they will loose their views of the surrounding mountains if all these overhead wires are in place. (Like they ever get out of their cars long enough to look for the mountains!) My response to this is: will you be able to see your mountains in a couple of years when all the smog produced by the increasing hordes of cars obscures the view?
What about the stress of driving in traffic? The wear-and-tear on your car taking you to/from work? The expense of your gassing up the car each week (well, hopefully only once a week–you are driving a car that gets over 30 MPG in the city, aren’t you?)
If enough buses are on the street, you won’t wait long for your connection. I lived on 29th Street, off a street car line (the J Church line–ran past the St. Paul’s Catholic church and school shown in the Whoopie Goldberg movie, “Sister Act”.) I had to wait 4-6 minutes during commute hours in the morning for the next streetcar to come along. The trip home at night was the same. Since I was downtown, other street cars for the other lines distributed throughout the city would come by every 2-3 minutes. Traveling was easy: I could read, look out the window, listen to my headphones. I was never accosted on any ride at any time in the years in which I took mass transit in San Francisco.
I voted for and totally supported Steve Farley, our Arizona state representative, who has had a vision to have light rail vehicles in a few lines around Tucson. I say, that’s not bold enough! Tucson needs more and Tucson can do more! I have faith. The people have to hear about this and they have to want this: they have to understand the benefits, they have to understand how their quality of life will improve with fewer cars on the road, how they will meet more of their neighbors while riding the buses, appreciate their city and all it has to offer.
That’s my vision. I haven’t been locked up for it, yet…
The following Arizona Daily Star headline caught my eye yesterday afternoon (6/24/2009). I had not heard anything about these bills before yesterday and I freaked out! Was Arizona going the way of South Dakota and with a one-two-punch, repeat the attempt to require teens get parental permission before they try to get a “prescription” and support pharmacists who want to deny the “morning after” pill because it goes against their religious beliefs? (This last blog article is about Religious Right/American Taliban nutjobs who attempted to support pharmacists in Illinois.)
Here’s a brief run-down of the story and the legislation that has passed in both the Arizona state House and Senate:
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A timeline of sorts about my discovery and connection to Buddhism and the Dharma.
Where do I begin? What attracted me to Buddhism? What drew me to continuing my study of the Dharma? Well, maybe a bit of personal history/background would provide a foundation for more historical info.
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