Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend 2009

Well ... with Julie in Nicaragua and Matt up in Boston visiting his girl friend's parents we were really on our own this year for our Thanksgiving holiday so we decided to make the best of it and HAD A BLAST! Our Thanksgiving weekend was such good fun first having dinner with friends on Thursday and then Fran and I “getting away from it all” on Friday and Saturday!

Thursday the 26th … Thanksgiving Day we had dinner at Simon and Wendy’s house with several of their friends and had a wonderful time dining and making new acquaintances. The broiled turkey was a great hit and showed us a new way of using our backyard cooker to serve up a tender and moist bird with little trouble.

Friday and Saturday Fran and I did a ”staycation” … that’s where you stay at a local resort and enjoy the amenities but save on travel costs J We ended up going to the local JW Marriott near our house and spent two nights at “neighbor” rates which is quite a good deal. The resort has low occupancy during the Thanksgiving Holiday so they welcome locals with great rates. Being always on the lockout for good deals … well Fran is … I’m just catching on to making sure I get the best deals ... we also had a wonderful meal at the Meritage Steakhouse inside the Marriott for ½ price entrees ( 2 for 1) because of my PBS membership. And because we were staying at the JW we got our Appetizers for free and because it was our anniversary we got our desert for free too! I felt a little guilty getting such a fabulous dinner for the price we paid. After dinner we went to the “Blue Martini” at City North and only stayed for a hour as it was getting past my bed time but we both enjoyed the time there. An excellent live band kept us entertained, and it was packed in there so we did not get a chance to sit down. If we go there again we’ll need to get there earlier to get a seat! The nice thing about a staycation is the trip home did not take that long ,,, 10 minutes J AND we did not have to board our dog we just came home to make sure he had water and food. We could not quite see our house from the pool area because of the vegetation but we could picture that it was just over the horizon ... and while looking we had good fun in the jacuzzi and swimming in the lazy river. Cheers!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

2009 ASU Homecoming Parade: Oct 31

Mom Ryan joined Fran and I in the ASU Homecoming Parade on Saturday October 31st. We walked the 1/2 mile down University Boulevard with the ASU Parents Association "float". We had about 80 parents, students, young kids, and professors participate as the Parents Association celebrated it's 25 anniversary as an organization supporting ASU.

Leading the parade were four antique cars with the current and prior three ASU Professors of the Year at ASU. They were followed by about 70 dancers and singers moving to the music of Otis Day and the Knights. Lots of fun! Mom, Fran and I ended up holding signs with names of three of the professors and walked next to them and their cars.

A really cute setting was after the parade when we met at the PA tent for cake and coffee and one of our scholarship winners made friends with Mom. "Dawn" is a Chinese girl who has been in the US for 10 years with her father and separated from the rest of her family in China. They are sacrificing so much for her to be able to have an education in the US and when she met Mom she developed an instant connection with a grandmother figure she so misses in China. Their photo together symbolizes so much to me ... from bridging generations ... to bridging cultures ... to bringing the unconditional love into a young persons life that a parent can share.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hoover Dam Bypass

THE WIDER VIEW: Taking shape, the new bridge at the Hoover DamCreeping closer inch by inch, 900 feet above the mighty Colorado River , the two sides of a $160 million bridge at the Hoover Dam slowly take shape. The bridge will carry a new section of US Route 93 past the bottleneck of the old road which can be seen twisting and winding around and across the dam itself. When complete, it will provide a new link between the states of Nevada and Arizona . In an incredible feat of engineering, the road will be supported on the two massive concrete arches which jut out of the rock face.The arches are made up of 53 individual sections each 24 feet long which have been cast on-site and are being lifted into place using an improvised high-wire crane strung between temporary steel pylons. The arches will eventually measure more than 1,000 feet across. At the moment, the structure looks like a traditional suspension bridge. But once the arches are complete, the suspending cables on each side will be removed. Extra vertical columns will then be installed on the arches to carry the road. The bridge has become known as the Hoover Dam bypass, although it is officially called the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, after a former governor of Nevada and an American Football player from Arizona who joined the US Army and was killed in Afghanistan.Work on the bridge started in 2005 and should finish next year. An estimated 17,000 cars and trucks will cross it every day. The dam was started in 1931 and used enough concrete to build a road from New York to San Francisco . The stretch of water it created, Lake Mead , is 110 miles long and took six years to fill. The original road was opened at the same time as the famous dam in 1936. An extra note: The top of the white band of rock in Lake Mead is the old waterline prior to the drought and development in the Las Vegas area. It is over 100 feet above the current water level.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

OOW Oct 11-14 2009 & Aerosmith

Oracle Open World is a pretty big deal in San Francisco every year in October. Oracle is one of the world's largest software companies and every year they host a technical event brining in 40-50 thousand IT developers from around the world to learn about the latest offerings from Oracle and to learn from each other. I went on behalf of my company and was part of a few technical sessions even though I am not really an uber technical person ... but I do depend very heavily on the success of Oracle products on my job so they invite me to share my experiences.

Every year Oracle holds a customer appreciation night where they bring in entertainment and this year was no different. Oracle rented out an outdoor venue for 30,000 people on Wednesday night (Oct 14th) on Treasure Island in the SF Bay. Very cool! They led off with Aerosmith and then followed with Roger Daltry, The Wailers, and closed with Three Dog Night. It was a very nice way to end a four day conference ... I'd been there since the conference started on sunday morning.

All for now

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sept 25 2009 District 2 Breakfast with Peggy Neely

I attended my District 2 councilwoman’s monthly breakfast on Friday morning the 25th at the JW Marriott. The JWM is a great host and provides the breakfast at cost for the event. Peggy Nelly is really good at communicating with her district with regular mailings and letters to local papers and also on the local government TV channel. Her monthly breakfast is one of the primary vehicles she uses to reach interested district members on a face to face basis. The following is from notes I took during the breakfast.

The meeting opened with two topics before moving onto her guest speaker Ken Bennett:

GAIN: Peggy encouraged citizens to get involved with “GAIN” Get Arizona Involved in Neighborhoods:

GAIN is Arizona’s answer to the National Night Out held in August but because of the heat Arizona has decided to hold the event in October.

The PVUSD M&O Budget Override vote is coming up on November 3rd. A retired PVUSD administrator spoke of the critical need for renewing the Budget Override which has been regularly renewed since 1988. It means about $35 per $100,000 of a home’s assessed valuation. The override renewal was denied last year and caused a reduction in services provided by the school system through the elimination of 219 staff positions including 190 teachers and counselors … lack of renewal this year would phase out the override completely doubling the cuts made this past year.

As pointed out in the meeting and is an approach my family has used in moving to four different cities with school age kids, including Phoenix is … the First thing we look for is support for the local school system. If it is apparent in any way that the community does not support the school district we don’t even consider buying a home there. For the benefit of the kids and for the benefit of our homeowners it is my opinion that this community should do everything in its power to fund our schools to the maximum allowed by law. Please vote for this override.

Peggy’s guest speaker was Ken Bennett the past President of the Arizona Senate and more recently the Secretary of State replacing Jan Brewer who was called on as governor when Janet Napolitano became Secretary of Homeland Security.

Ken spoke briefly about the responsibilities of the office of Secretary of State which primarily is responsible for conducting statewide elections. His primary focus of discussion was illustrating the funding sources and how the money is spent for the Arizona budget of $33B. We most often hear of the $10.5B general fund but it was very enlightening to hear the full discussion as it puts all discussion of cuts and movement of money in context of the full picture. Ken also discussed how the budget has evolved since 2006 / 2007 when he left as President of the State Senate to this year’s budget.

The General Fund:

The general fund is approximately $10.5B and is the area where AZ legislators have the most influence over spending … although as pointed out later cutting funds that are matched by federal dollars can have a weighted effect. The tax revenue supporting the general fund comes from sales taxes and income taxes. A little over 50% comes from sales taxes so when times are good in home building and car sales we are flush with tax revenue and … we tend to want to spend the surplus. When times are bad we don’t react proactively with cutbacks … and we slash budgets, borrow and sweep funds to make up the shortfall. We have no relatively stable source of tax revenue at the state level such as property tax.

The $10.5B is spent in the following major buckets: $5B for K-12 (1.1M students), $1.5B for higher education, $1B for prisons and courts, $2.5B for Health and Welfare (1.2M people, DES, CPS, Mental Health), and $0.5B to fund about 150 other state agencies.

Federal Receipts:

The federal government contributes another $10.5B to the Arizona budget to cover a couple large mandate areas; $2B for K-12 special needs, $6.5B for Federal Health and Welfare (Medicaid and Access), and $2B for Higher Education (although this number includes tuition). Some of the federal receipts come with strings attached that require matching funds … if the state does not invest then the federal government will not invest.

Local Property Taxes:

Of the local communities in Arizona they contribute an additional $4B for K-12 and $1B for community colleges.

Other AZ State Funds:

Other specific funds are also established to receive funds through tax sources such as the gas tax ($1B) for transportation, alcohol & tobacco ($1B) for healthcare, the lottery ($0.5B) and workers compensation ($0.5B). Outlays also cover education ($0.5B) state administration ($0.5B), environmental ($0.5B), and capital projects ($0.5B).

All the above adds up to about $32-33B with over two thirds of the budget allocated to K-12 education ($11B), Higher education ($5B), and healthcare ($10B).

The Budget Machinations from 2007 to 2009:

2007 Fiscal Year ended:

Ongoing Revenue: $9.6B

Ongoing Expenses: $9.6B

Rainy Day fund: $700M

Ending balance: $350M (was originally projected at $550M but reduced by $200 as tax revenue started to drop at the end of the fiscal year)

2008 Fiscal Year started with over a 10% increase in projected spending even though revenues started to drop off due to the recession:

Ongoing Revenue: $10.1B (assumed the 2007 balance would continue as annual revenue)

Ongoing Expenses: $10.6B

Rainy Day fund: $700M

Ending balance: $0M

2008 Fiscal Year ended:

Ongoing Revenue: $8.8B

Ongoing Expenses: $10.5B ($500M rainy day fund, $300M sweeps, $300M K-12 delayed payment – rollover, $100M cuts)

Rainy Day fund: $200M

Ending balance: $0M

2009 Fiscal Year started with a projected tax revenue increase and an increased spending budget. Some expenses are mandated to grow wrt to growth in student population and voter mandates but to raise budget projections in the face of a recession

Ongoing Revenue: $9.1B (reduced to 8.0, then 7.6, then to 7.3)

Ongoing Expenses: $11.1B (reduced to 10.7, then 10)

Rainy Day fund: $200M

Ending balance: $0M

2009 Fiscal Year ended with the state of Arizona having a junk bond rating and ranked 50 out of 50 in credit worthiness among all sates. The city of Phoenix continues to have the highest credit rating but is threatened this coming year as the state may need to sweep funds from the city coffers to cover its budget.

Ongoing Revenue: $7.3B

Ongoing Expenses: $10B ($100M Rainy Day fund, $325M sweeps, $525M borrowed through school district bonding, another $300M K-12 rollover – May & June payments, $100M DPS shift, $400M cuts + selling state assets and borrowing)

Rainy Day fund: $100M

Ending balance: $0

Additional Notes:

In 2006 the state had ongoing expenses of $8.3B … as long as we stay above this 2006 threshold we will be able to receive and use federal stimulus dollars but these are only good for the next two years … by that time we will have to hope that the economy bounces back and/or we have realigned our expenditures to be in alignment with our tax revenue and just as important is to realign our tax base to provide a more stable and predictable stream of funding.

Ken Bennett guestimate related to the costs of illegal immigration for the state of $1B health, $1B education, and $0.5B related to prisons.

Ken was of the opinion that increasing taxes was not the answer. Even if it was put to the voters he did not feel Arizonans would increase their own taxes. He felt we should be making business feel welcome to move to Arizona and solicit those businesses desiring to relocate.

Ken also made a point to note that prior to a ballot initiative that corrected the problem the state has had to absorb two significant unfunded mandates from the voters; 1] all day kindergarten that costs $300M out of general fund, and 2] lower thresholds for income allowing more people to use the state Healthcare Access program. The initial redirection of $75M of tobacco settlement funds has ballooned into $500M coming from the general fund as Access has expanded from 80,000 people in 2000 to 1.2M in 2009.

My Thoughts:

  1. I found Ken Bennett to be quite engaging and offered a layman’s level explanation of how they finances of the state are constructed and how we got from a flush rainy day fund with an annual surplus to a gapping multi-billion dollar deficit within two years.
  2. The presentation was purely from an accounting perspective and did not discuss what kind of state we want … it was about how do we balance the budget
  3. Reconstructing what happened in establishing the initial 2008 and initial fiscal year 2009 fiscal year budgets would prove instructive. By mid-2007 when the 2008 FY budget would have been approved the stock market was at its peak so a bit of hubris could be expected. But by mid 2008 signs were everywhere that the economy was in recession especially here in AZ and yet the budgets were set higher.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sept 13 2009 La Jolla ... The Gatorman

Another great swim this year with many swimmers making the trek from Phoenix to La Jolla. Tempe Sun Devil Masters had approximately 25 swimmers plus six (Robert, Janice, Peter, Pat, Rico and Dave) swimmers from SACistan. Dinner at Hennessey's the night before the race was coordinated by our SACistan race volunteer Mike H was very nice and a great opportunity to meet Rico and Trisha's daughter Annie.

The Rough Water Swim earned it's title this year with swells running 10-12 feet but I made it to the 3 mile race turn around point in my best time to date but the swim back from the pier took about 1/3 longer than the way over. Against the swells and chop and at times it seemed like I was hardly moving. The final 200 yards I had to stop and watch how the waves were breaking onto the beach to get the timing right and to be able to not get swept into the rocks ... but land on some soft sand :-) Now I may have had a seed planted in my head from Rico the night before telling me about an 11 foot shark that lived in the cove ... but not to worry as he was a bottom feeder ... right. BUT, when I was moving to the right side of the cove to line up with the waves I looked down and I don't think I was hallucinating I saw a shark bigger than me ... and I looked twice to make sure ... about 10 feet below me. I kept telling myself "he is a bottom feeder" but I still tried to swim faster and after some brief leg cramps made it onto the beach. Happy Swimming!

Update ... After I wrote the above I stepped out to buy a pair of sneakers at New Balance ... I know TMI ... but as I'm checking out at the register a song comes over the speaker ... the one about "Lola" if you are old enough to remember the 1970 song by Ray Davies. It reminded me on Sunday that when the waves spit me out on the beach and I staggered to the finish line I was welcomed by a line of women passing out food bars and water and the first one was holding out her arms to hug me and as I got closer I realized she was bigger than me ... had chin stubble ... and gave me a hug that took the wind out of me ... sigh ... this is California.

Sept 12 2009: Parent to Parent talk

This past weekend I went to La Jolla to meet up with some old swim friends and compete ... OK ... "old" as in age and "compete" as in participate ... in the "Gatorman" a three mile open water swim. On the plane ride over I sat next to a Vietnamese woman and we started talking about kids and school ... her kids and mine are about the same age. Both my kids have graduated from ASU hers from U of A ... her family story was remarkably similar to some of the students at ASU that the ASUPA has awarded scholarships to that came from immigrant backgrounds. Both her students received scholarships at U of A ... worked hard and are succeeding in the USA because a little help was provided up front. Her story was of decades of incredible perseverance, sacrifice for her children and pride in her adopted country. Her children are on the path to be doctors graduating at the tops of their respective classes. I love stories like this :-)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Sept 7 2009: Hiking on the Mogollon Rim

Fran suggested we go hiking on Labor Day ... I said "great" ... where do you want to go? She found an article in the Arizona Republic that suggested a five mile hike around a beautiful lake on the Mogollon Rim Recreation Area. After 10 years living in Arizona I am still not sure how to pronounce Mogollon but I think it sounds like "Mugyon" ... The lake we went to is part of the Apache and Sitgreaves National Foreast in east central Arizona ... spanning about 2,000,000 acres. The Mogollon Rim is part of the defining features in Arizona demarcating the lower part of the state from the high desert and mountainous regions.

It was a great drive up taking under two hours as we were able to maintain a good pace up Route 87 to Payson and then east of Payson on Route 260. about 35 miles east of Payson we turned on Forest Road 300 and then followed the paved road to Woods Canyon Lake. There we paid our $5 entry fee and followed the perimeter of the lake for about two hours. It is so pretty up there and the air was so cool and full of pine fragrance ... sure made me wish I was camping there for the week ... in an RV :-) After a nice walk ... we both wanted to walk further but hunger was taking over so we had a nice lunch of Elk burger at a Rt 260 roadside restaurant called "Bugles" recommended by the park attendant.

Something buried in the deepest recesses of my memory was trying to warn me not to go traveling on a holiday ... but I could not quite hear the warnings. 24 years ago we spent four days on Cape Cod for 4th of July weekend ... and I swore I would never ever deal with that kind of traffic again ... but I forgot. Coming from the lake on Route 260 into Payson was a very painful two hour drive ... made more painful by the behavior of some of the drivers ... most people were nice but I remembered a few and especially the tic who went out of his way to block me from merging in bumper to bumper traffic 12 miles out from Payson ... him driving a yellow Hummer did not help.

Anyway, awesome trip, except for the return part ... next time we pick our travel days better.

More on Mogollon Rim:

The Apache and Sitgreaves National Forest Web Site:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Julie is Going to Nicaragua

Well ... it has been a year in the making but our daughter Julie is heading off to Nicaragua for a 27 months assignment with the Peace Corp. She is so excited, nervous, and totally prepared she cannot wait for the flight that brings her to a three day staging event in WDC starting on Monday. There she will get pre-departure instructions, equipment and vaccinations prior to traveling as a group to Managua. By next Saturday she will be staying with her host family in Managua for the next three months of in country training before heading out to her two year assignment. Her primary task will be teaching school teachers how to speak english and helping them train their students. Hopefully, Fran and I will be able to get down there next year for vacation and see her either in Nicaragua or in neighboring Costa Rica.

Shown here with Julie and Fran is our dog Chester who is recovering from an operation to remove bladder stones and because he bit the veterinarian he is also under home quarantine until August 31st.

Update September 1st: Julie is leaving WDC Wednesday at 3AM and will be in Managua by noon ... and Chester is out of quarantine ... Phoenix animal control cleared him today and because he is a first time offender and the victim was the vet he will have no permanent record :-) DJR

Update September 4th: Julie is with her host family in Nicaragua but American airlines sent her luggage to a different country ... so we do not know when/if she will be reunited with her clothing and carefully purchased items that are supposed to last her the next two years. Also on a happy note ... Chester is out of quarantine and has his stitches out and is back to his old self.

Last Update September 6th: We spoke with Julie Sunday night and she has her luggage and is living with a host family of seven for the next 10 weeks during training. She is in a little village of about 6,000 people.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

ASU - Be a Relational Parent

Some Perspectives on the ASU Parents Association from a past president ... be a "Relational Parent"

I have had the great pleasure of being associated with ASU as a parent for the last nine years and while I have recently scaled back my involvement because my children have graduated I still remain connected to the leadership team of the ASU Parents Association, ASU Foundation Staff and ASU Staff. As a past president (‘05/’06 school year) of the ASU Parents Association it was clear to me the role that the parents association plays in making a difference for students and for their life on campus. In my mind it was always about making ASU better and filtering our ideas and actions for relevancy through the eyes of the students while focusing on three primary areas: 1] providing scholarships to the capable but financially challenged, 2] providing grants to support tutoring, mentoring of our scholarship winners, community building and safety related efforts across all our four campus’s, and 3] to honor the vision of excellence established for the gifted professors who teach our children ... I should add area #4 ... working with our student scholars on the Parent Association Float and marching at the October Homecoming parade!

There are so many things like tuition costs, same sex dorms, drinking policy, drug abuse, emergency support, the number of light poles on a street, and even really important things like the price of football tickets (I actually had quite a heated argument over that one) that come up on the radar from time to time that we periodically need to review as to whether the ASUPA should take a position or be involved and on a selective basis step in and be the voice of the parents. My own personal sense is that the ASUPA cannot be everything to everybody and must focus on our core mission ... representing all parents to make ASU the best place we can for our students within real financial and time constraints and to work with the ASU professional staff to make the maximum effect with our limited resources.

I thought I would share with ASU parents some key thoughts from a training session I attended recently that brought out to me some wonderful concepts of civic and institutional responsibility. My thinking being that some of the training and thoughts presented might apply to parents in general in your own communities and would be helpful as we think of the ASU Parents Association and the role of parents as a group supporting ASU, the largest civic institution in the state of Arizona. The training I received was focused on developing people who have a passion for making a positive difference in our communities and in our institutions. An institution (for example) can be a school, a church, or a YWCA and serves a role in the community (or nation) of bringing people together for a shared purpose. Institutions also serve the role of teaching community values and/or reinforcing family values. I could bore you with a lot of other information from the class and would be happy to blog with those interested but there are just a couple key training take aways I would like to mention that I think are directly applicable to the ASUPA membership.

  1. Unless community members get involved in their civic institutions their voices will not be heard and more importantly the civic institution will whither.
  2. The ASU Parents Association leaders are dedicated to making a difference at ASU and to make change happen. They engage in a relational dialogue with ASU Foundation and ASU Staff to create wonderful programs for our students. This "Relational Power" brings together the best aspects of each to make real positive change at ASU.
  3. Relational Power characteristics; shared and interactive, public and accountable, is expansive in nature, and is only limited by the level of broad based participation.
  4. Relational power depends on several things; a) informed consent ... members participate voluntarily based on transparency of operation, b) judgement is applied versus acting on opinions, and c) an interactive dialogue based on civility versus emotional reactions.

The ASU Parents Association represents the interests of over 54,000 undergraduate students and is part of the largest civic institution in the state of Arizona. The leadership of the Parents Association is responsible for supporting a civil relational dialogue among parents and the university. By default, having a student at ASU makes you part of the ASU Parents Association but it is my hope that every parent would take the opportunity to become involved in a direct way. The easiest way is to financially support the programs of the ASUPA but the most important way is through your time and talent. See the following web site for ideas on how to step up your involvement with the Parents Association:

Be involved ... be a "Relational Parent".

Dave Ryan

ASU Parents Association Past President ('05/'06)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

August 21, 2009 Bongos with 612 and Rico

Well I knew I had no rhythm before Friday night but it was on full display as a stood with several others keeping the 4 part beat on the top of the horizontal drum with my left hand and hitting the end of the drum with a stick with my right hand on alternate beats. Man did I feel spastic! Traditional music ... it is not ... but I was finally able to go to the drumming class with my good friends from masters swimming; 612 and Rico Suave. Hand drumming for beginners is taught on Friday evenings at the AZ Yoga studio at the Scottsdale Airpark and is sponsored by AZ Rhythm Connection. 612 and Rico have been attending the beginners class occasionally and seemed to know what they were doing so I just followed their lead and I did not feel too awkward except when I was trying to do two things at once and my hands did not cooperate.

The focus of the class is the West African Diembe a skin covered hand drum shaped like a large goblet and played with the bare hands. Everyone sits in a semi-circle with a Diembe around the instructor "Frank" and he leads the group in simple exercises progressing in complexity to the limits of the class attendees. It was pretty cool watching and listening as the whole class got engaged and the tempo picked up.

Even though I felt awkward it was actually a very fun thing to do and I would like to go back for more. The class was very respectful of my awkwardness ... except for Rico ... he was laughing so hard he started crying and I thought he was going to fall off his chair! And now that I think of it 612's looks of concern were not exactly inspiring either! But Rico's and 612's "encouragement" aside there were moments where the beat of the drums from the class and my contributions sounded pretty good so I know I can do better.

After drumming we went to Brennan's at Scottsdale and Thunderbird for a sandwich and a couple beers. Really great fun and great company. Thanks 612 and Rico. Bo

Monday, August 17, 2009

August 14 - 17 2009 Los Angeles Vacation and Going Away Celebration for Julie

Julie heads off to Nicaragua August 31st and Fran and I wanted to spend a long weekend with her next to the ocean ... her favorite thing to do. We were originally going to race in the La Jolla Gatorman together but since her Peace Corp assignment came through quicker than we anticipated we found a 3 mile race around Naples Island in Long Beach to go to instead. We made it a four day weekend and managed to bring along one of her swim buddies from Phoenix (Jen) and met another two of her swim friends (Alisha and Megan) that now live in LA. What a trip for me being around five women that are all so smart and much quicker witted than I am ... I learned quickly to do what I do best ... just drive the car and do what I am told :-)

We went to the 3rd Street Prominade on Friday night and I became a part of a "street art" demonstration. Basically, a bunch of guys that do all sorts of acrobatic moves in the street and enlist audience participation. Their leader pulled me out of the crowd because I looked like "Chuck Norris" ... sure ... I think they pulled me and a bunch of others into the center was so they could tease us into donating more money for them.

During the day on Saturday the girls (Julie, Jen, Alisha and Megan) went swimming in the ocean together and they were in 2nd heaven! Really quite a memory for all them as it brought back so many fond stories of how they swam together for so many years and made numerous trips to La Jolla together to swim in the ocean.

Saturday evening was very cool as all six of us went to the Hollywood Bowl and saw the LA Philharmonic perform along with some fireworks. Turns out it was 16 years almost to the day that Fran and I first came to the Hollywood Bowl. We ate dinner in one of the bowl picnic areas and then attended a two hour performance. From a music perspective the pianist Mihaela Ursuleasa was UNBELIEVABLE ... here is a link to her website: An amazing 30 minute performance of non-stop Tchaikovsky music called "Piano Concerto Number 1" ... it really was impressive to listen and watch Mihaela perform. Since Fran and I were last there in 1993 the Hollywood Bowl has installed large jumbotrons allowing close ups of her playing the piano. After a mid-performance break the guest conductor Christian Knapp led a storied rendition of a relatively unknown and unpublished Romeo & Juliet operatic duet and then ... there were fireworks to the 1812 Overture!!

Sunday was the "big swim" day. It was really quite a small race involving maybe 70 people in the 1 mile race (Jen won 1st in her age group) and about 80 people in the 3 mile (Julie got 3rd in her age group). Julie and I swam the 3 mile (actually about 2.75) and it was quite nice ... the swim is around the Naples Island in the center of the harbor and the water temperature was about 65 degrees. Me ... I thought I swam really well but came in 7th in my age group ... but I made it!

Saturday morning Fran and I walked on the beach and then had breakfast at the "Urth" Cafe ... I liked it so much I went back Monday morning by myself to have another bowl of oatmeal and really good coffee. :-)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

August 8 John Shadegg Health Care Town Hall

On Saturday I attended a town hall meeting in Arcadia. Pretty interesting both from a topic perspective as well as a people watching perspective. Even though I was there 45 minutes before show time the seating capacity of 200 was 80% full and by the time of the start of the event there were 500 people flowing out the doors.

John Shadegg Health Care Town Hall

Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center

Summary: John Shadegg hosted about 500 people in the Arcadia Learning Center to discuss the current health care plan “HR 3200”, his perspective and his responses to as many questions from the public as possible.

The meeting started at 11AM and at about 12:20 the Phoenix police and fire marshal asked for volunteers to leave as the room was only designed to hold 200. I took that as an opportunity to depart.

Overall I found the congressman to be quite engaging and totally in command of the subject throughout his statements and responses to questions. After listening to him respond and knowing his background and sponsorship of other health care initiatives I cannot imagine that there are too many people in the congress that could do such a masterful job. That being said … he is totally against the democratic plan and his (and republican) alternative theme of personal freedom and “choice” as the answer rang a little hollow considering the financial debacle we are currently experiencing. The less than stellar aptitude that so many Americans displayed in choosing mortgage products and we expect putting health care choices in the hands of the 20% of our US population that are functionally illiterate is going to produce better results … gives me reason to pause that the republicans have the answer.

Throughout the session John reminded the crowd of the need to be civil and that all view points should be respected. He got to lead by example and display a civil attitude himself as several people went way off topic pontificating and making pointed observations. He was so good at taking each of those moments and injecting humor and turning the topic around to his advantage to make a point.

Congressman Shadegg’s web site:


A recent NY Times Article highlighting the reality many young americans are facing:

Some General Comments made by Shadegg: HR3200 is a big bill … in excess of 1000 pages likely growing to 1500 pages after committee markups and reconciliation of committee versions of the bill. There are actually at the present time multiple versions of this bill being marked up by various committees that need to be consolidated in the “Rules” Committee. HR3200 sets out to ensure a minimum level of coverage for all Americans through employer and individual mandates. Within five years all public or private healthcare offerings must meet government established minimums … the republican issue with the bill is that it presumes that putting government in the middle of the equation to guide the offerings and the choices people make will provide overall lower costs for America. The republicans are offering four different bills of their own that focus on freedom and choice with the presumption that putting choice in the hands of everyone … from a congressman to a homeless person will control demand and costs. The republican usage of the word “Choice” being a euphemism for moving away from the government or employers limiting peoples choices for health care coverage and the individual taking on the risks inherent with selecting the appropriate coverage and deductible for their needs. This would also include programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Government Employee Healthcare, and S-Chip.

There are two basic areas that democrats and republicans agree that health care must be reformed before either of their approaches can succeed:

v Pre-existing conditions

Ø No one should have to go bankrupt due to pre-existing conditions

Ø Three years ago Shadegg sponsored a bill written into law authorizing states to set up high risk insurance pools to cover pre-existing conditions. Only 22 states have adopted it … not Arizona

Ø One man came forward to provide an example … he has set up his own business and is successfully managing it but because of a PEC he cannot get healthcare coverage for the condition. So far it has cost him $40K out of pocket to treat the condition and it threatens to bankrupt him. The democratic plan offers him a solution … the republican plan does not

Ø John agreed that this is unacceptable and is the type of example that illustrates the system has some broken areas that must be fixed.

v Universality

Ø Everyone should be eligible to buy a minimum plan through employer, individual, and if not affordable then tax credits provided

Ø Individuals currently cannot purchase insurance across state lines … this must change

Ø If you are not satisfied with your employer health care plan you currently cannot use those tax preferentially treated dollars to procure another plan. This must change allowing individuals to freely move their coverage to the plan that best suits them

Ø We choose our banks, auto insurance, and homeowners insurance from national level companies … and we fire them when we are not satisfied … why not health insurance?

Beyond these two basic areas it boils down (to me) whether we trust government to run our health care choices or let the free market determine our choices.

I won’t go into the details of the individual questions … there were about 15+ questions asked by the time I left and many of the answers were covered by my comments above regarding PEC and Universality.

A few others comments by Shadegg in response to questions:

v Earmarks are where there is corruption. Jeff Flake’s pursuit of this subject has uncovered numerous instances of improper behavior by elected officials that corrode public confidence. Republicans need to stand for no earmarks.

v In response to a question whether the government has the authority given under the constitution to nationalize healthcare or create socialized medicine … John reminded everyone that we already have taken big steps in that direction with Medicaid and Medicare and prior healthcare mandates that govern how healthcare is provided nationally. It may not be constitutional but we have been doing it for years.

I ended up sitting in a row of wingnuts so I was getting an earful from two consecutive people about every right wing conspiracy imaginable … and there were many other people carrying signs and images defacing Barrack Obama … but those intellectually bereft images and conspiracy theorists aside I found the event to be very helpful in educating me. I was impressed with John Shadegg and his mastery of the topic, his ability to control a large somewhat unruly group, and his recognition that we have a huge issue confronting America that we must address together and not let the entrenched interests (insurance and pharmaceuticals) dictate the solution. Citizens must step forward and exercise their opinions and be educated on the subject.

Given the electoral makeup it was Shadegg’s position that the republicans cannot stop HR3200 from being passed unless citizens are able to sway their democratic elected officials to hold off on voting for HR3200.

Below are the main topics addressed by HR3200:

(1) IN GENERAL- The purpose of this division is to provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending.

(2) BUILDING ON CURRENT SYSTEM- This division achieves this purpose by building on what works in today's health care system, while repairing the aspects that are broken.

(3) INSURANCE REFORMS- This division--

(A) enacts strong insurance market reforms;

(B) creates a new Health Insurance Exchange, with a public health insurance option alongside private plans;

(C) includes sliding scale affordability credits; and

(D) initiates shared responsibility among workers, employers, and the government;

so that all Americans have coverage of essential health benefits.

(4) HEALTH DELIVERY REFORM- This division institutes health delivery system reforms both to increase quality and to reduce growth in health spending so that health care becomes more affordable for businesses, families, and government.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 25 & 26 2009: Keith Urban, Amy Buxton AND the D'Backs WIN!

Wow! What great weekend ... Fran and I went to the Keith Urban concert in Glendale Saturday night and had a great time. We don't get out to many concerts and this one was so cool because Keith is young and hip and often writes his own materials as well as being a great guitarist and singer. Not that Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, The Rolling Stones and Tom Jones are slackers ... not by any means ... did I say "THE" Rolling Stones ... and I really enjoy watching them .. but it was nice seeing an entertainer younger than us :-) The audience had quite a range of ages so I must say and I think we were "up there" relative to the average age ... there were many many 20 & 30 something people there having a blast. In all, even though it was billed as a country music concert it sure came across as a rock concert with pounding heavy bass, five guitars and a drummer. Keith Urban and his four other guitarists all could sing really well.

A nice surprise was Amy Buxton replacing Sugarland as the opening act. Amy sang about eight songs and won the hearts of the audience with her vocals and sincerity in expressing how happy she was to have the chance at singing at the Glendale Arena and being the opening act for Keith Urban.

To top the weekend off we saw the Diamondbacks whup the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-0. Quite a performance by the D'Backs starting pitcher Max Scherzer for the first seven innings and the closer Blaine Boyer pitching shutout relief. Seven out of nine runs were scored with two outs.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Old Violin

I'm posting an email trail that started over three years ago from my friend Steve ... aka 612. It's not a coded name ... its just that he arrives at swim practice late every day typically around 6:12AM ... I should restate that in a Bohemian way ... he arrives at a time that fits his natural biorhythm :-) hence ... the 612 moniker.

I had forgotten about this story of the old violin but it speaks to other things I've written in my blog about 612 and my swim team. For example; swim teams that have lasted 20+ years don't happen just because there is a pool ... there is something more than that bringing people together, day in, and day out, year after year. We share so many hours every morning before work swimming for a masters team ... this is more than a shared experience ... its about a swimming and social community that stands together and opens its doors to all who choose to enter.

From: Steve
Sent: Sunday, July 19, 2009 2:56 PM
To: Dave
Subject: The Old Violin

I was going thru my email archive and came across this

Long Live the King!

From: Steve
Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2006 12:47 PM
To: Dave
Subject: The Old Violin

thank you for sending this - i love the story of the old violin (especially after I so rudely walked away in the locker room after you told me you wanted to tell me this story - so thanks for your persistence in getting this idea to me) I will definitely pass this on to my daughter who has recently become a "Devil's Advocate" as I once was long ago. This is the honorary / service group that gives tours of ASU. and.........yes - we must keep SACistan in good tune and repair!!!!
it is good that we have developed this governmental system with so many ministers helping in the care and tuning!

Long Live the KIng!

From: Dave
Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2006 12:33 PM
To: "Bo"
Subject: The Old Violin

Hi Bo.

I was thinking on Friday about what you said about why we stick together; camaraderie, humor, like interests . turns out Friday evening I attended the 50th anniversary of the ASU Memorial Union. Interestingly, it is only one of 50 University student unions in the world dedicated to remembering the men and women in the armed services who gave their lives in service of their country.

The keynote speaker left us with a story about "the old violin" . about an estate auction being conducted and item after item was being sold for nominal value as all items were in disrepair, dusty, and uninteresting. One item, an old, dusty, out of tune violin came up for auction . after plucking a few of the strings the auctioneer started the bidding for the item "do I hear $1 for this item? .. Do I here $5 ? Yes? Going . go ." and then an old man in the back of the room stood and walked to the front before the item could be sold. He spent a few moments dusting off the item, tuning the strings, and then played a sweet musical arrangement to the astonishment of all those in attendance. When he finished, the old man handed the violin back to the auctioneer and walked back to his seat. Not quite knowing how to proceed the auctioneer returned to closing the sale but quickly a bid for $1,000 was offered, then $3,000 and then finally sold for $5,000.

The message being that a violin, a building (in the case of the MU), a pool, or even a country like SACistan has the greatest perceived value when it is well cared for by experts and fulfills the needs of those to who it is offered for service. Worth more pondering over a bagel, but I'm thinkin that SACistan fulfills a deeper need in us than we understand yet.

Long live the KING!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

July 3, 2009: Day Trip To Kitt Peak

Kitt Peak and Dinner at the Feast (Tucson)

Fran was understanding enough of my interest in astronomy … and I think a little curious herself to agree to drive to Kitt Peak today. Kitt Peak is a mountain southwest of Tucson that was selected 50 years ago out of 1,000 potential sites to be the location where the National Science Foundation would put a national observatory. Formally known as the “Kitt Peak National Observatory” (KPNO), part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). NAOA has three facilities … KPNO plus a facility in Hawaii and one in Chile. These three facilities are run by a consortia of universities including the University of Arizona. The KPNO web site:

We made a day trip out of it leaving Phoenix at 9AM and getting to KPNO a little after 1PM with a short stop for lunch and a long mountain climb by car to 6400 feet elevation. We arrived shortly before their 1:30PM tour of the 4 meter Mayall telescope that was one of the original scopes used back in 1970. Today’s telescopes use something called adaptive optics to help manage the shape of the mirror as temperatures change and the angle of inclination changes. Adaptive optics use little computer controlled actuators to put pressure on the backs of the mirror to change its shape ever so slightly and allowing it to retain its perfect reflecting shape. Back when the Mayall mirror was built adaptive optics did not exist so they needed to build the mirror as big and and as rigid as the state of the art allowed. So, the mirror … it is 158 inches across and weighs about 12 tons! But now picture that the mirror has to tilt and rotate to look at different parts of the sky and it has to be accurate to a millionth of an inch! So they had to design a 300 ton monster of a table to sit the mirror on and this is the way they have operated it for 40 years. Then they had to drag all that equipment to the top of Kitt Peak ... unbelievable feat!

Another little "factoid" ... KPNO has a million gallon water tank on top of the mountain ... that explains why they have flush toilets! The neat thing about it is behind the visitor parking lot they have a BIG concrete cone that collects rainwater that runs to a collector and is then filtered and treated for storage and use on the mountain. It also comes in really handy in case there is a fire.

So after a two hour tour of the Mayall telescope and a walk around part of the mountain top we headed into Tucson for dinner. I had looked up on “” for a suggested restaurant and the top rated restaurant was a place called “Feast” on Speedway Boulevard. We made it there and had a very nice meal and spent time with Megan … I think … the owner or manager who also waited on our table. Tucson is more a laid back atmosphere than Phoenix and this was certainly the case at the Feast. It was very tastefully decorated and equipped and I could tell from the clientele that came in while we were sitting and how they interacted with the staff that it had a very high percentage of regular customers.

Friday, July 03, 2009

June 26, 2009: Westin, Silverthorne Mall and Vail Gondola

We took it pretty slow today. Fran was again up all night coughing but by 9AM she seemed well enough to go for a walk along Gore Creek and then after we changed we went for lunch at the brand new Westin Resort located next to and overlooking Gore Creek and the Beaver Creek Resort. The Westin was quite impressive and we had an OK meal and the view while eating was awesome! After lunch it started pouring as we made our way to the Silverthorne Outlet Mall we had seen on the way in from Denver. I am a little surprised to hear me say it but I actually enjoyed the mall … it has about 80 outlet stores on three campuses. OK … the river running through it and the towering snow covered mountains directly behind it were pretty impressive and gave a pretty positive impression. But the stores we went to were pretty decent and while we were not able to go to very many of those stores Fran was pretty impressed and claimed it a “successful” shopping experience.

After shopping we stopped at our favorite place ... the Vail Lionshead Village for a quick bite to eat. We went to a restaurant next to the Gondola and were pleasantly surprised to see the Gondola running … and because it was after 4PM it was FREE ☺! So we quickly ditched our dinner plans and rode to the top of Vail mountain and had dinner at 11,000 feet in the mountain top lodge called “Bistro 14” in honor of the many 14,000+ foot mountains in the area. It was a great way to wrap up the week!

June 25, 2009: Aspen and Independence Pass

We took a 200 mile round trip south of Interstate 70 today. Going south through Leadville on state route 24 and had lunch at the “Tennessee Pass” restaurant (really good food ☺). Leadville is quite a nice little town situated at 10,000 foot elevation. We passed so many beautiful spots along the way to Independence Pass … one was called Twin Lakes. A little five building village overlooking a lake under some towering 14,000 foot peaks. There were a few cabins for rent here … maybe for the future?

Another hour of climbing a winding state route 82 along a rushing stream brought us to Independence Pass … a high mountain pass connecting Leadville and Aspen. The highest point is at 12,000 feet and is above the tree line and even in late June has plenty of snow. Mountains rose all around us up to and past 14,000 feet … it turns out Colorado has 52 mountains over 14,000 feet. After cresting the mountain pass we began a 10 mile journey down the other side of the mountain into Aspen. This pass is typically closed from the first snow fall through late May. Fran and I were amazed at the number of cyclists who made the trek up the mountain. Not only are they climbing thousands of feet in elevation the air is so thin their lungs must have been burning terribly. I was relieved to find they had support vehicles waiting for them at the top of the mountain.

Aspen was so picturesque just like I imagined but … it was raining and everything we wanted to see was outside. We tried to make the best of it but we were getting tired and ended up calling it a day after about 45 minutes and then started the long drive up route 82 to Glenwood Springs and then Interstate 70 back to Avon. Before we arrived in Avon we decided to have dinner in Edwards at a place called “E-Town” … a part of a planned live / work / play community. Edwards reminded me of a rural community suddenly facing an onslaught of development spreading out from the Vail ski area and encompassing the entire Vail valley.

June 24, 2009: Colorado Vacation Vail Pass Bike Ride

On Wednesday the 24th we got daring and signed up for a 25 mile bike ride starting in Vail Pass. This was stunning beautiful and quite a nice ride for Fran and I especially for Fran as she had not ridden a bike in over ten years and had never ridden as fast or on such steep hills as we did today. A shuttle bus picked us up outside the Sheraton and brought us out (with 12 other people) 25 miles east to “Vail Pass”. Vail Pass is at 10,660 foot elevation and is at the snow line for June. After getting used to our bikes at the start of the bike path Fran and I followed the trail for the next 12 miles down winding paved trails occasionally turning into country roads that we shared with a few cars. The only real danger was letting the speed get away from you and then having to navigate one of the many turns through the forested areas. Easily we could have 40 miles per hour on these downward slopes but we kept the speed to less than 25 at the maximum and more like under 20 mph for most of the faster runs.

At around mile 12 we entered the east end of Vail and came across the Gerald Ford Amphitheater and the Betty Ford Garden. The Ford’s came to Vail quite a bit and when he became president the entire entourage would come to Vail while he vacationed. This attention by the national media is what put Vail on the international spotlight and development of the area subsequently took off.

From mile 12 through 17 we navigated the Vail ski area winding through some beautiful neighborhoods and the Vail villages. At this point we could have met the shuttle bus but we decided to keep going and followed the bike paths and marked roads back into Avon and returned our bikes. In all it was a 25 mile trip and close to a 3,000 foot drop in elevation. This mostly downhill (with a few ups) is definitely an enjoyable way to go biking ☺

In the evening we went out to dinner at a restaurant in Vail Lionshead Village called the “Montauk Seafood Grill”. June is a slow month for the Vail Valley and the specials were fantastic at many restaurants. Montauk’s offered a special for June for all their entrees to be $19. Fran and I both had great meals for a very modest price.