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.