On the Road: Total solar eclipse and advanced umbraphilia

IMG_8065

Click on the image and watch the total eclipse movie. Thanks to Jeff Geyer rigged a filter and recorded totality.

The total solar Eclipse-a-palooza happened on August 21st and stretched coast to coast from South Carolina to Oregon.

Not knowing what to expect, I became a born again umbraphile.”

One who loves eclipses, often traveling to see them.

I’ve had a mild case of umbraphilia. Over the years, I’ve seen several partial eclipses through the pinhole cameras we fashioned out of grocery store boxes in grade school.

Looking at a picture of the eclipse was better for my eyes, but the experience didn’t cut it for me.

In 1979 there was a total eclipse when I was in Lander and the paper-frame eclipse glasses were first commercially available. In fact, I still had them in a box and took them with me.

After August 21st, my umbraphilia has become aggressive.

00840501.JPG

Looking at a picture of the eclipse just wasn’t cutting it for me.

For background purposes, eclipses happen when the moon orbits between the earth and sun which casts its umbra – shadow – on the earth.

The fact that the moon orbit around and the earth and the earth / moon orbit around the sun have to perfectly line up is very amazing to me. Total solar eclipses are evidence to me that the universe isn’t random.

The eclipse totality cover image was shot by my neighbor, Henry Kroll, in Arthur, Nebraska. He shot in available light with a stopped down lens through a slight haze.

I made plans with a group of friends to head to Glendo, Wyoming, but the enthusiasm among my crowd waned and it ended up being just me on another solo adventure.

Since I could only be in one location for the eclipse, I wanted to make a home movie based on video and photos taken by my friends and neighbors from across the country.

columbus eclipse

Columbus was revered in what is now Jamaica because he “predicted” a total eclipse in 1504.

It was a strange experience.

I can see how 14th and 15th century people would have been freaked out during a total eclipse. There was a war between the Medes and the Lydians in 585 BC that supposedly was stopped because of a total solar eclipse.

Columbus dazzled the people in what is now Jamaica with his eclipse “prediction” in 1504.

These days, big-time celestial events bring people together – family reunions, informal gatherings, and community festivals. Everyone I know who saw the eclipse became an umbraphile.

IMG_7985

McGuckin Hardware in Boulder recalled Y2K.

There was quite a bit of sensational hype about getting ready for the eclipse akin to nuclear war preparations or the Y2K scare. I bought into it. Not knowing what to expect, I brought along:

  • 10 gallons of water – there was water all over the place
  • camping toilet – there were port-potties all over the place
  • gas stove and cooking equipment – there was food for sale all over the place
  • fueled up the car three times – there were gas stations open all over the place

Nonetheless, I headed out on Saturday morning. The roads were clear and a straight shot to Cheyenne. My rounds include a stop at the Paramount Coffee Shop for a boba tea. I wandered across the street to Phoenix Books and Music to visit Don McKee.

IMG_7995

The 2nd state Beatles “butcher” album

He had a 2nd state “Yesterday and Today” record album that I bought on an impulse. I intended on returning to pick it up on Monday after the eclipse, but didn’t make it until much later.

My friends, the Keenans, are breaking in a new service dog named Moose.

They live in north Cheyenne. They weren’t home, but through the miracles of technology, they took a movie of me on their porch and texted me about stopping in to visit them at Culver’s. Bill headed to Wheatland on eclipse day.

IMG_7998

Bill, Susan, Alek and Moose

On my way out of town on the Eclipse Trail, there were bootleggers selling T-shirts and eclipse glasses for inflated prices, thinking there would be no more. The Cheyenne facebook garage sale page had eclipse glasses listed for $20 to $40 a pair.

I got back on I-25 and uneventfully pulled into Glendo. My first stop was Howard’s truck stop. I go there whenever I drive by for my favorite road meal.

howards-glendo

I came here with Matt Mead and his son, Pete, who recommended the fried taco.

The biggest disappointment of the weekend was when I learned that the deep fried tacos are no longer on the menu. “Amy doesn’t work here anymore, ” the lunch counter matron said.

I’ll have to settle on a new “go-to” food item.

My friends Doug and Carrie Quinn have 60 acres in the Glendo city limits and staying there was my destination. Carrie is originally from Glendo. They were renting out spots for RVs, tents and cars.

Doug, Carrie and couple of their friends were busy greeting visitors.

It soon became so busy, that a bunch of others including myself were drafted into being parking lot attendants.

carny cfd

I worked at the Cheyenne Frontier Days carnival for a newspaper column.

This gig was a throwback to my carnival days when I learned that I was pretty good at getting people to give me money for nothing. I worked in the pop-the-balloon game during Cheyenne Frontier Days many years ago.

There was an umbraphile next to me from Germany who traveled to Glendo. He travels all over the place to watch total solar eclipses. He said, “You get hooked.”

I wanted to get there early to take in the festivities. Saturday night was hoppin’ in Glendo. There was a street show with the Jalan Crossland Band.

IMG_8014

Del trips the light fantastic with Cooper, Sally and Katy.

I whooped it up with Del and Sally Lummis. They were part of my original party and weren’t going to come, but decided otherwise at the last minute.

There were a lot of people like that who jumped in the car and made a quick road trip.

I didn’t get a chance to look around much because parking cars was so much fun shooting the breeze with eclipse goers. Besides, I’d been to Glendo many times before and being mostly a land-lubber, checking out the water wasn’t appealing to me.

On Sunday morning a steady flow of vehicles from all over the place stopped for information. There was quick-get-away parking that cost $20 and free parking in Glendo State Park and the Glendo Airport. The free parking spot exit was bottle-necked.

glendo eclipse traffic

In Glendo with 50,000 of my closest friends.

Traffic was heavy on eclipse day. Glendo did a great job organizing the crowds. The population swelled from 225 to 50,000. At least that’s what one t-shirt said. I walked into town early in the morning looking for something to eat.

Downtown Glendo isn’t very accessible, which is a good thing because foot traffic is encouraged. I walked over to check out the morning action.

IMG_8046

Angler’s and $5 coffee

The few food places had lines around the corner and rather than join the crowd, I went into Angler’s Rest thinking there may be some bar food.

No food, but asked to refill my coffee. The bar keep said it was $5, which I thought was pricey even for eclipse prices. He said everything was $5 and I might as well get it with a shot of whiskey. I haven’t had Irish coffee for a while.

I made my way back after cruising by the souvenir stand, which was nearly sold out. I’m a skinny guy and don’t wear the large sizes.

IMG_8052

Part of my parking lot attendant group.

I wasn’t in the mood for a T-shirt. They were the iron-on designs as opposed to silk screened and settled on an under stated Glendo cap. Some of the others had slogans like, “I blacked out in Glendo.”

After parking a few stragglers, I set up a 360 virtual reality camera and turned it on about 15minutes before totality and made a VR movie which can be viewed online and in goggles through a smartphone.

One of the guys in my group, Jeff Geyer, rigged up his camera with a filter and captured the totality.

richard mathern lusk traffic

Slow moving traffic

As advertised, after 2nd contact, cars streamed out making for traffic jams throughout the night.

I lingered with my crowd and decided to venture out around 3pm, thinking traffic may be less.

My play all along was to return on the back roads. Everyone else had that idea, too. My first mistake was heading north to Orrin Junction and go through Lusk. Once I got to the exit the traffic loosened up until just south of Torrington.

I ran into bumper-to-bumper slow moving traffic on Highway 30 and cut over to Chugwater on Wyoming 312. Then I saw all the taillights on I-25.

Traffic moved along, but I didn’t get back to Boulder until midnight. All things considered, the trip was a good one. It was fun parking cars and meeting some new people.

The next total eclipse is 2019 in South America. After that, there’s one in North America in 2014. Those two events are incentive enough to keep taking my medicine. Umbraphilia will keep me young.

No matter what your memories are about the eclipse, I hope they are fond ones.

Advertisements

Braceros, Traqueros and DACA Kids: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

reagan quote immigration

Ronald Reagan signed immigration reform into law in 1986 that was sponsored by former Wyoming US Senator Alan Simpson. The law gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented people.

The US government and railroads welcomed immigrant workers from Mexico. How did they end up coming to the United States in the first place?

I heard a presentation by Lu Rocha at a workshop organized by my grad school Center on Domestic Violence at CU-Denver.

She gave a history of the Latino/a/x/ labor force in the United States that dates back to the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the 1800s and propping up the war efforts between 1942 until it’s repeal in 1964.

The H2A and H2B visa programs for agricultural and non-agricultural workers are remnants of the Bracero Program.

Immigration issues have been in the news lately.

daca sign

POTUS 45 repealed DACA put in place by President Obama in 2012 as a stop-gap measure to protect kids of undocumented residents.

The Reagan administration signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 which heightened border security but also granted amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. This was a bi-partisan effort led in the US Senate by Wyoming’s Al Simpson.

Red and Blue presidents and congresses failed to act on immigration reform until Obama in his lame duck term issued the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrives (DACA) executive order which cut some slack to kids brought to the US by their undocumented parents. It was a compassionate Band Aid.

POTUS 45 is trying to move the needle. He overturned DACA effective in six months, hoping Congress will get its act together on immigration reform.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

Immigration reform is a wedge issue for Republicans. They are against immigrants, generally, because of the supposed “taking of American jobs” rap. At the same time, American business is reliant on immigrant laborers who perform low-end work that regular Americans won’t do which is a throwback to the transcontinental railroad construction and World War II worker shortage.

traqueros

The Transcontinental Railroad was completed by laborers from Mexico.

Traqueros In 1881 Governor Luis Terrazas of Chihuahua drove a silver spike completing a rail line linking Mexico and United States which allowed immigrants transport to the United States and coincided with the West’s construction of the transcontinental railroad.

Mexicans were the dominant immigrant labor laying track in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite low wages compared to their native born coworkers and discrimination, immigrant Mexican laborers became permanent residents, not by law but by fact. By the time of the Great Depression, workers moved to the cities in search of other low-skill work.

Bracero Program

The US Department of Labor and the Immigration and Naturalization Service collaborated on the Bracero Program at the start of World War II. Braceros were allowed in to the US to provide help on farms during wartime.

Braceros The bracero program (Spanish for manual laborer) began in 1942 and operated as a joint program of the State Department, the Department of Labor, and the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), as it was known then, in the Department of Justice.

Laborers from Mexico were promised better living conditions in camps, including housing, meals and toilet facilities. They eventually were paid a minimum wage of 30 cents / hour. The pact also stated that braceros supposedly would not be subjected to discrimination and exclusion from “white-only” areas.

During World War II, the bracero program intention was to fill the labor gap, particularly in agriculture. The program lasted 22 years and offered employment contracts to 5 million braceros in 24 U.S. states—becoming the largest foreign worker program in U.S. history.

The bracero program caused problems on both sides of the border with labor shortages in the northern states in Mexico and resulted in illegal immigrants who remained in the United States. Millions of Mexican Americans attribute their roots to their fathers and grandfathers who crossed the border as braceros.

DACA MASS WALKOUTDACA Circle back to DACA kids. They are the modern day traquero/a/x and bracero/a/x. They are people who arrived in the United States under the radar as children.

Like the braceros and traqueros, while they should have returned to Mexico, those families have remained – while looking over their shoulders – without documentation and became productive members of their communities.

The DACA kids ended up with high school and college educations, contribute to society in professional jobs, have families of their own with kids in local school systems. They pay taxes and volunteer in their communities.

When the Bracero Program was ended in 1964, the positive outcomes were better working conditions for farm workers thanks to advocacy by activists including Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta. There were no immigration laws that turned traqueros back to Mexico.

DACA was a short term fix when Obama acted because Congress didn’t. The immigration issue has come full circle from 1986.

Whether Congress and POTUS 45 get their acts together on immigration reform will be a defining moment for the Republicans like it was for Republicans and Ronald Reagan.

Until then – don’t ask, don’t tell.

simpson reagan signing“We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.” Ronald Reagan on November 6, 1986 upon signing the Immigration Control and Reform Act.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter 2013 – Note to self: don’t get sick in December

In the fall of 2013, I decided to enroll in an Affordable Care Act health insurance policy. Everyone was written a letter by their health insurance companies giving policy holders a little time before then end of the year when all insurance plans expire.

Little did I know how close all those would be to home until I enrolled under ACA and was also a recipient of more than my fair share of medical care during the hectic Obamacare transition period.

For most people, there wasn’t much of a transition if covered on the job or some other public program.

I don’t think most people who have real jobs and a personnel office that annually negotiates group insurance realize that insurance actually lapses at the end of each year keeping coverage, apparently, seamless.

Nor do I think most people in insurance groups bother to read their coverage fine print.

Back when I had a real job, I was surprised to learn that as a single guy, in my group plan, I was covered for maternity care.

But when it was explained to me that to spread around the risk, I am obliged to pay to help cover my colleagues who have families or may want to start one. I viewed it as being a good community member.

This was in the 1970s – 1990s and it has been that way since. Now that I’m self employed, I’ve had to annually negotiate m y policy.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) began to point out what they considered to be unnecessary coverage, like maternity care for single guys.

As a quick primer, the ACA was proposed by President Barrack Obama approved by the US Congress and signed into law March 23, 2010. It set up centralized health insurance exchanges where users who weren’t covered by their employer, the Veteran’s Administration, Medicaid, Medicare, or some other program could sign up for health insurance.

Of the US population in 2015, 49% are covered by their employers, and 43% by some other form of coverage leaving around 8% needing health insurance coverage including self employed people like me.

Other than mandating health insurance for all as a means of diversifying the national insurance pool, there are provisions like not being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and young people being covered under their parents’ policies until they are 26.

I’m one of the self-employed people who has had the same insurance carrier for the past several years. My insurance is routinely “cancelled” when the company annually changed the terms and conditions, deductibles and more times than not raised the premium prices at the end of the year.

I could either take the new plan or be cancelled. I always opted to stick with my carrier, but had to call up every year to see what options I had. Generally, I settled for higher deductibles to keep my payment close to what it was before. In my estimation the insurance industry is a big legal ponzi scheme, if you ask me, but thank God I have health insurance!

… and I knew I wasn’t going to get dinged for a preexisting condition.

People who are shocked or surprised that their policies are routinely changed tossed out letters from their insurance carriers as junk mail.  In March of 2012, I was informed that my insurance would be grandfathered under the ACA if I wanted to go that route – keep my doctor and everything in tact.

Pioneer that I am, I set up an account on the Connect for Colorado Health exchange website and after a few delays and glitches, was a approved for a way better plan from my existing carrier for less price.

So I was “double-covered” with my existing policy and my new ACA policy because I didn’t quite trust the new system.

I finally gained confidence in the ACA and canceled my higher deductible plan which was a good thing.

Politicians have been trying to “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare since its approval. I chuckle when I see the political action committees running ads on TV about the small group of folks who claim to have fallen through the cracks when they didn’t take personal responsibility to take care of their health insurance business during the one-year window during which they had a chance.

Rather than be accountable for their irresponsibility, Obama and all the other socialists are to blame for their current misfortunes.

You know what?

Obamacare, socialism, public / private partnership – whatever you want to call ACA, have nothing to do with reality. Health care reform only has to to do with people like me who were flat on their backs pushing the hospital room call light hoping a nurse’s assistant will come by to empty the urinal or patch a bed sore.

Truth is, Trump, McConnell, Ryan or any other politician can’t help anyone, let alone improving advice individual patients get from their doctors and their staffs. Anyone who disfavors ACA hasn’t been sick lately.

Before I get into the gory details, I have to tip my hat to health care workers in the trenches, namely nurses and certified nurse assistants. The world wouldn’t turn without them. I’ll jump ahead a bit and say that I’d never really had a hospital stay before and after being flat on my back for six weeks.

I couldn’t walk, stand, wipe my butt. The nurses and CNA’s were there to meet my every need, particularly when I got very low and bummed out.

This raises another big topic of self advocacy. Being flat on my back, I was complacent and didn’t advocate for myself as much as I should have. My partner in crime, Diana, was a big advocate. She questioned what was happening and kept on the nurses and doctors, to their annoyance.

She brought over a couple friends and neighbors, Nicki and Evie who also had experience advocating and helped particularly early on when I was first admitted.

I can’t say enough about having a strong advocate. I’m pretty sure, my doctors weren’t waking up in the morning wondering how I was doing.

Over the course of the fall and summer, I was being treated for various types of pneumonia and eventually went to the hospital. I was quite out of it because I had lost a lot of weight – eventually 30 pounds – had no energy or stamina, and no appetite.

What happened next is a bit of a blur, but, my lung doctor did a biopsy to figure out about my pneumonia.

Did I mention the morphine pump?

Meanwhile, I was on steroids which led to a perforated ulcer and stomach contents were leaking into my body cavity causing sepsis. I don’t know this as a fact, but I’ve been told that I was not given much chance of making it through the emergency surgery to patch up the ulcer – mostly because of the lack of eating and general indifference, translated into “failure to thrive.”

I read through my medical record and I was also classified as anorexic. That sounds worse than it is. It means I was very skinny.

So I have this emergency surgery and am being fed pablum through a tube bypassing my stomach and intestines while the ulcer patch heals. This causes me to lose weight and strength. I’m flat on my back between ICU and a regular hospital room and rehab for six weeks.

Since my parents died a few years ago, celebrating the winter holidays have been different every year. I wrote a stage play about this which was produced by Hitching Post Theater a few years back – I’ll have to dig out that story.

This was no different being being in a hospital with the second tier help on duty.

This stint in the hospital was good in that when the biopsy results came back from the University of Michigan, the results figured out about my lung condition as being an auto immune pneumonia now being treated by steroids, which is a good thing – particularly for those of you who had to deal with my hacking and coughing over the summer and fall.

Not so good with the ulcer recovery, I still had a rubber tube sticking out of my stomach that was. removed after a week. So getting to the bottom of my pneumonia was good, the state of my physique, not so good. Then I was kicked out of the hospital.

Meanwhile, I can’t stand, walk or otherwise take care of myself and I’m lifted into a wheel chair and strapped into an ambulance to go to rehab at this place in Denver.

Unable to move on my own, I start sliding out of the wheel chair and bouncing around like a rag doll. I felt like the dead guy, Bernie, in that bad movie “Weekend at Bernies”. The driver pulled over at the cooking school on Quebec and got me repositioned before getting to the rehab center in Glendale, which is a neighborhood in Denver.

The rehab center was an hour from Boulder, served mostly geriatric patients and I was the youngest one there. It was good meeting some folks from Denver.

This rehab center has it figured out. Everybody there gets about an hour or two of rehab each day and the other 22 hours, they feed everyone high protein and lots of carbos. It got a little monotonous plotting out the day based on meal time.

I am totally amazed that I received enough physical and occupational therapy after two weeks to walk out – albeit with a walker, compared to when I arrived as a total invalid.

My diet was simple – eat anything, particularly high protein and sweet stuff – a lot of rare steak and ice cream floats. It takes a long time to gain back wright. I was up 15 pounds during rehab and stabilized after getting 30 pounds chubbier.

After being out of captivity since the first week in February 2014 and getting stronger every day I was getting back in to the swing of things. Being self-employed, I had many ongoing projects.

I think it’s also an Asian thing to be totally self reliant – but this experience has taught me that it’s okay to ask for help. Many thanks to Michael and Barbara for keeping mud in my entrepreneurial cracks over the past couple months of my recovery.

After being out of rehab for a week, I attended the Boulder International Film Festival over President’s Day weekend – I’m on the BIFF Board of Directors. It was my first outing “off campus” since Dec. 16th – prior to this, I was in an ambulance, hospital, ambulance, rehab center, in my condo.

I’m also back in the editing booth – I cut together a tribute to Shirley MacLaine that screened Saturday night at the BIFF.

It’s been a big wake up call for me, particularly about big picture issues – mostly around downsizing and relationships with people.

Small picture issues, I’m now more serious about plotting out some exit strategies for projects I head up and handing off projects to others and getting ready to “retire”.

Even though I’m mostly recovered, I’m still planning for a long road ahead, I still consider myself “disabled” and will likely be recovering for awhile. I may be out and about, but I anticipate plenty of limitations.

I still encounter steps and small inclines and places without banisters or elevators that I didn’t notice before.

My message to the politicians? Keep muddling through the ACA because here’s no turning back.

 

 

To Have and to Have Not

Ernest Hemingway wrote a novel called “To Have and to Have Not” Not being much of a reader, I saw the movie with Humphrey Bogart. I’m not exactly sure how that story fits into this post, but it may have something to do with relative misery and happiness of people with lots and material possessions and those with not so much and their interactions.

alan-shoveling

Cohousing community members share in the upkeep of the common spaces.

In a community context, it’s about values and how people chose to live together. That’s relevant since I live in a cohousing community that consists of a couple dozen neighbors in the condo homeowners association. Each household owns their home has private lives, but share in ownership of common spaces and a common house which are jointly operated and maintained in a community life. The community had a retreat recently and one of the topics that bubbled to the surface was one of perceived conflicts among families around the value of money.

As a follow up to that, the community is organizing a workshop around the touchy subject of money matters and we were each asked to fill out a “financial autobiography”.

Set up a three camera switched shoot at a big awards banquet in Cheyenne. My roots are still in Wyoming. I also went to Laramie to pay my respects to a friend who recently died.

I’ll be working out of town that weekend, but thought I’d fill it out, anyway. Being a cohousing wonk, I think this is the type of personal information potential cohousing community members should share among themselves as a part of their initial development planning. I think that learning about people on a deeper personal level right off the bat will weed out those who don’t belong in a particular community or cohousing, generally. It’s not for everybody – although I’d say most people intellectually understand the benefits of community living.

maris topps

Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961. Baseball cards were among the first things I bought with my own money. This is from a cereal box. I went to the store with my mom. She shopped. I was in the cereal aisle looking for the box with the most Yankees.

What was your-first memory of money? When I started to get allowance, 15cents per week starting when I was seven. I got a raise to a quarter a couple years later. Back in the 1960s, there really wasn’t much I had any interest in buying except baseball cards starting in 1961, then Beatles cards in 1964. There were two drug stores nearby – Save More and Thrifty where my dad would take my sister and me, generally on Saturday to see what there was to get. I didn’t buy much candy or gum, since my grandparents owned a restaurant and we, pretty much, had free run of the candy counter.

What was your happiest moment with money? When I won over $1000 in a football pool at the Stockgrower’s Bar in Lander, Wyoming. I don’t remember the exact year, but it was in the 1990s. The pool was set up so the pot was progressive. Throughout the season, there was a winner every week or two. The last pot accumulated over several weeks. I don’t recall more details nor my numbers, but I had Kansas City and the Minnesota Vikings. Chiefs defensive back Deron Cherry intercepted a pass that stopped a Vikings drive at the end of the game which gave me the pot.

Your unhappiest? When I was laid off a job in 2004 and had to use my grad student loan money to augment my unemployment insurance benefit. I’m still paying that off, luckily the interest rate is 2percent. When I got sick at the end of 2013, my insurance was ready to lapse and I had to sign up for the first round of Obamacare. I ended up with two deductibles – don’t get sick in December – and re-upped with a higher deductible plan to keep my premiums lower. It took almost two years to pay off my out of pocket costs.

plains dairy trip

One of the dads organized field trips for the neighborhood kids. This was from a tour of a local dairy. We all got Popsicles.

How did you feel as a child, teenager, young adult – Did you feel poor, comfortable, or rich? I grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My dad was the manager of the Coca Cola Bottling Company there. My mom stayed at home. That was, pretty much, the case with all the families in the Cole Addition, which was a “suburb” that popped up during the Cold War. There was huge nuclear proliferation and Cheyenne was one of the “ground zero” locations with the highest concentration of intercontinental ballistic missiles in the country. We weren’t the wealthiest family in the neighborhood. There were a few “merchant class” families who ran family businesses, but most everyone worked for wages. In a sense, it was a mass society. Every kid had a bike, for instance, but some had Schwinns, others Hawthorne which was the Wards brand. Mine was a refurbished one that was rebuilt by one of the guys who worked for my dad. To this day, I prefer self-customized used over new. My dad was an “early adopter” we had the first TV back in 1957 or 58; the first automatic dishwashers, the first seat belts (they were after-market).

alan grandpa ohashi

All my direct family members lived in the same town and were close knit.

Were you anxious about money? Growing up, I was never anxious about money. I always had a nickle in my pocket and knew I had a place to come home. Being an entrepreneur the past 15 years-or-so, I’ve learned to wake up unemployed everyday and get with the program. So far, I haven’t grown tired of it since my work is a lot of fun and different everyday. There are a few of us who live in the community who still work and the place, otherwise, operates on a “retiree” schedule.

What did your parents do to earn money? I answered that above. We were always comfortable. I ended up working for wages for most of my jobs as an adult and didn’t get the entrepreneurial bug until I was old enough to know better.

Who handled the money In your family, and how? I’m pretty sure my dad handled most of the finances. When my sister and I left the house, my mother began working again and turned her water color painting hobby into a business. She handled much of her own book work for that. As a kid, I managed my own bank account, although I often needed a ride to the savings and loan to make deposits.

Was money discussed in your family? Money wasn’t discussed when I was a kid. It was talked about when I applied for college to get loans and scholarships. Money wasn’t really discussed until we decided to put all the family assets into trust.

pat nichols birthday

All kids invited one another to birthday parties. There was no exclusion.

How did your family discuss and express generosity? Generosity was about helping others out. My parents gave to the church, as did my sister and I – which we had to take out of our allowance. Most of the kids in the neighborhood must have received similar “be independent” messages. There wasn’t a lot of collaboration or group projects. It was all about the relationship-building, more so than doing things for each other, other than at random. In Cheyenne, all the new subdivisions had swimming pools. That was the major gathering place for kids during the summer. Parents all knew each other because of the kids. Most everything was on a neighborhood basis back then – neighborhood schools, the swimming pool, neighborhood 4-H clubs, neighborhood Cub Scout dens and packs. There was a lot of reciprocity – every kid invited the other kids to their birthday parties, for example. Generosity was expressed all the time. Intentionality was part of the culture.

Did your parents trust you to go to the store to buy something? Me going to the store was not part of the division of labor. When I was in high school and drove, I may have gone to the store from time to time, but nothing memorable. It wasn’t a rite of passage.

Did you ever steal from your parents, other family members, or stores as a child? When I was in high school, I tried to steal a paperback book for an English class from the local grocery store and was caught. I did it to see if I could get away with it, since I didn’t want to fork out for “Love Story.” The worst part was having to tell my father. He had to call the store and talk to the manager – Verlin – about it. He was a friend of my dad’s employee who built my first bike. I was cut some slack and I don’t think my dad ever told my mother about it.

How much money did your family have compared to your childhood friends? As I mentioned before the neighborhood was a mass society. The social class thing wasn’t evident. It may have been among the adults, but that wasn’t a friendship factor. Although there were some families who had more social mobility and had friends from other parts of town, all my friends were in the neighborhood and church.

How did your parents respond when you asked for something? I wasn’t much of an “asker.” I was always of simple means and didn’t want much. I began to work at a very early age so I could even further be a little more independent.

Did you have to start working or did you want to start working? I didn’t think one way or the other about working. When I was offered the Hitching Post job I got a bug for it. During the summer I worked sometimes 60 hours per week at $1.35/hour and time-and-a-half over 40. For a 12 year old kid, I was socking away a lot of money. My only expense was $.75 greens fee at the public golf course on Mondays. I didn’t work during the school year because I was in sports. It was good to have my own money and not have to lean on my parents.

hitchingpost

The Hitching Post was one of the CFD hot spots. It was my best job.

At what age did you start working ? I worked at my grandparent’s business, the Highway Cafe when I was probably 10 or 11. I washed dishes and paid under the table since the legal working age was 12 at that time. I mostly worked when my dad went there to cook after he got off his job a few times a week. My first real job was when I was 12 and my neighbor on the corner, Mr. Contos, got me a job as a busboy at the Hitching Post Inn. I imagine that came about from some conversation my dad had with him. That service-sector job gave me an early exposure to jerks, picky people, control freaks, and bad tippers at a young age. My favorite shift was working from 10pm to 6am during Cheyenne Frontier Days. My job was to run booze from the bar to the Coach Rooms where huge parties took place. Now that was an eye 0pening experience.

What Is the first money you recall earning and how did you earn it? Working at my grandparent’s restaurant was more like getting tipped. My first money making project was selling pop at the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade. During CFD, there were three parades at the end of July. My sister, cousin and neighbor chipped in, shopped the sales and bought up canned sodas throughout the year and stock piled it in our bomb shelter. Even though my dad worked for Coke, we sold the grocery store brand because parade goers weren’t that brand conscious and the profit margin was better. The first year, after dead-heading to resupply wasted a lot of time and after about three summers we figured out where to set up soda caches along the route. The last I checked, my cousin still has the first bag of money he made from that parade gig.

How did you begin saving money? My first account was Cheyenne Federal Savings and Loan. Relatives would give me silver dollars for birthday presents and those were put into the account. After silver money was taken out of circulation, I thought I would be able to withdraw silver dollars from the bank, but much to my rude awakening I was not able to do so. After that I like to have tangible investments.

hc alan debbie karen mary coors

I’ve lived gregariously much of my life, including in the dorms. Not only the same dorm, but the same dorm room for four years.

Did anyone help you decide on a career based on how much money you wanted to make? In high school, I didn’t talk to a guidance counselor at all. Maybe at the end of my senior year to determine if I had enough credits to graduate. I had absolutely no idea what to expect in college. I graduated high school and college at the end of the Vietnam War with degrees in political systems analysis and environmental biology. There weren’t many jobs out there counting smooth and wrinkled peas. I ended up sitting out post-war recession studying environmental politics and teaching at the University of Wyoming. I had no career counseling. If I were to do it all over, I’d go to two years at a community college so as to avoid taking the SAT and ACT.

What messages did you get from your parents about career, earning money and spending money? I didn’t get much information or advice from my parents about money matters. They were both high school grads and didn’t have much knowledge or experience, other than to say “go to college.”

What was/ls your view on money and dating? Who should pay for dates? I didn’t date much in high school. It was a non-issue for me.

When did you get your first credit card? What were your feelings about it? When I was in college I got a Diners Club card. That was before Visa and MasterCard. I worked in the student union checking out pool equipment from 9pm to 2am. I got paid to play billiards and earned money to pay a credit card each month. I lived on campus, at the student union food and didn’t have many discretionary expenses.

Will you Inherit money? How does that make you feel? All my family property is in trust, so I didn’t “inherit” it, per se. There hasn’t been reason to sell anything yet.

Will you have money to leave to your relatives? How does that make you feel? Likely, but in the back of my mind I want to be on my death bed with no money in the bank having spent or given it away while I’m still alive.

Could you ask a close relative for a business loan? For rent/grocery money? I could, but wouldn’t.

How do you feel about your present financial situation? I’m happy with it.

Do you know how much money you have right now?  Do you know how much you owe right now? Yes and I know exactly how much I owe on a credit card, car loan and student loan.

Who handles the money in your current household, and how? We handle our own money.

Is money easily discussed? There’s no reason to discuss finances.

Is money abundant or scarce? Neither abundant nor scarce.

How does your family discuss and express generosity? It’s not discussed.

In what ways are you a good manager of money? In what ways are you a poor manager of money? I’m pretty good at keeping track of my business money mostly because I have a good CPA. Personally, I don’t have many expenses to track.

Do you have a personal budget? Yes

Have you made decisions concerning retirement, insurance, drafting a will, and so on? I’ll keep working until I get tired of it. So far, I don’t know what I’d do if I had a bunch of idle time on my hands. I’m not much of a traveler just to travel. When I go someplace it has to be purposeful. The Talking Heads have this record called “Stop Making Sense.” The album jacket has a “scrapbook” of photos. One caption of a group of women doing their laundry in the river says, “Rich people travel thousands of miles to take pictures of poor people.” That’s not my thing. I have a will and a charitable remainder trust set up.

What kinds of things do you buy on your credit card? Do you ever buy groceries or necessities? I seldom buy any day to day stuff on a credit card. My card has no “miles” attached to it.

IMG_1510

I bought my first new car – VW Golf – since 1974 and traded in my 1993 Eurovan

Do you make big purchases like cars, appliance or other expensive things with your credit card? If I make big purchases, I buy on credit. Recently, I bought my first new car since 1974 on credit from the dealer at 2.5% which is pretty good.

Do you know what interest rate you are paying and how much you owe? Yes

Do you have any money secrets that you have never told anyone about? Let me think …

Do you talk to your friends and family about money—how much you have or don’t have, how much you make or how much they have and make? I talk about money in general terms with business colleagues.

How much money would you like to be making? What feelings does that bring up for you? I want to make accessible money while I’m sleeping. I keep putting myself into positions to do that and one of these days …

How do you feel about spending money on yourself? About the only non-essential things I get for my self have to do with my sports card collection. That’s more like a hobby business since no money changes hands.

Have you ever felt guilty about your prosperity? Yes, when I was held by police in Uganda and had to pay a bribe to a cop.

Have you ever felt guilty that you don’t have enough money? Is this a result of your mismanagement? I don’t feel guilty about having money or not. I’m not much of an extravagant person. It’s mostly a guy thing. I don’t buy new clothes, I don’t buy new shoes. If you look in my closet it looks like Batman’s closet – a rack of gray outfits.

ghost of xmas future

People should take a visit from the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come and find out what people thought about them.

How do you feel about the money situations of those who are more or less well-off than you? At one level, I feel sorry for them. I know plenty of people who are very well off and in retirement or close to retirement. They spend lots of money on themselves but don’t seem to be very happy. Many seem to have their own circle of acquaintances and I see them once or twice a year. A friend of mine who had been planning for retirement died suddenly and I’ll be at her funeral on Saturday. I’m a non-profit fundraiser and teach workshops about donor development. There’s a datum out there that as a percentage of income, more money is given to charity by low / moderate income people than by wealthy people. The stereotypical notion that rich people should be hit up for donations is false. It’s better to nurture a larger number of willing regular people than trying to convince a rich person. More well off people need to be visited by Ebenezer Scrooge’s Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come.

How do you feel about begging? Welfare? I have been on the public feedbag and I am very forthright about that and don’t disparage anyone who has had to seek an outside hand up. As for panhandlers, I used to think me giving someone money was some sort of social contract and the recipient wouldn’t spend my money on booze or smokes. But then I got to thinking about all the frivolous and wasteful things I’d spent money on like beer or a hamburger or whatever. When i give money to a stranger, they can spend it how ever they want.

In what ways can you be generous? In what ways can you be stingy? Do you treat? Do you tip? I’m randomly generous, throw parties, pick up tabs, treat, offer up goods and services for events and activities with no reciprocity expected. I’m not stingy, but don’t prefer to be with people who don’t carry their expected part of the load, or are constant “takers.”

We’re all “haves” and “have nots.” It depends on the time and circumstances. Everyone just needs to look themselves in the mirror and know that their experiences are not the same as anyone else’s and take those differences into account on a daily basis.

If you’re still frustrated and undecided, watch ‘TrumpLand’

If you haven't voted yet and a presidential fence sitter, click on the above image and watch the Trumpland trailerLast night, a movie called “TrumpLand” played in Boulder as part of the International Film Series. The “documentary” is a cut of a one-man show by Oscar winner Michael Moore.

HBO no longer has the full movie online. It is available for $4.99 on Amazon and iTunes.

Anyway, if you haven’t yet voted, don’t like Trump because he’s a misogynist lying millionaire, don’t like Hillary because she’s a feminist lying millionaire and leaning toward Trump, Hillary of a third party candidate, watch this movie before you vote.

He goes into the solid Republican territory of Wilmington, Ohio – home of the original banana split – and speaks to an audience that overwhelmingly consists of Trump supporters. Moore makes a point that he is NOT a Hillary supporter. He’s pretty good about meeting people where they are and finds the commonalities among differing perspectives.

I’m not going to spoil the movie for you, but if you’re a fence sitter and really care about the direction of the country watch this movie.

Yes: Amendments T, 69, 70, 72, sugary drink tax, schools … Hillary

My ballot is ready for delivery. There’s a law in Colurado that photos of filled out ballots are not allowed. Mine is in the secrecy sleeve.

The election ballot came in the mail the other day. I hear a bunch of people haven’t quite made up their minds yet. I don’t get that. Not that I’m any kind of political guru, but here are my takes on the election.

While I like the convenience of mail-in ballots, having to place first class postage on them is a form of a poll tax. Old school student that I am, I will drop off my ballot at the polling place on election day.

I predict the Democrats will take back the Senate and make a big dent in the House GOP majority. What will continue to stalemate congress is the heavily gerrymandered districts that benefit the Republicans. Democrats who get elected in Republican districts will likely be there for one, maybe two terms. The SCOTUS decision upholding the Arizona election commission as a non-partisan redistricting tool and the 2020 census should enable the creation of more competitive districts.

Presidential Electors – Hillary and Kaine: I was/am an ardent Bernie supporter but now reluctantly for Hillary – but solidly, 100 percent behind her. A vote for Hillary / Kaine is a vote for the Bernie movement. If you’re for social justice, getting money out of politics, balancing income disparity, cracking down on Wall Street, further health care reform, fixing trade deals, then, maintaining a Democrat in the White House  will move that agenda.

I predict Hillary will win by a landslide. It will be unbelievably huge – believe me. Hillary is lucky she’s isn’t running against McCain or Romney this time. It would have been a tight 2016 race.

Write in Moon

If you’re one of those “Bernie or Nobody” or “Hillary and Trump are both terrible” voters, it’s not like you don’t have choices. There are 22 pairs of candidates on the Colorado ballot. If you don’t like any of them, there’s a “write-in” blank. Because of third party candidates, Hillary is likely to win in Utah … WHA’???!!!

If it’s any consolation to my Wyoming friends voting for Trump, in any scenario from a Hillary landslide to a Hillary squeaker, Wyoming goes solidly for Trump. Trump is guaranteed three electoral votes.

For those of you who have forgotten what you learned in political science class, we don’t vote for candidates, but rather for electors who, in turn cast each state’s vote for president. Electors aren’t bound to vote how the state directs them, however. There are people who don’t like this approach, but we’re a nation of states not a nation of people, as we are sometimes led to believe. The electoral college system provides equity to the least populated states.

US Senator – Michael Bennet: This is a no-brainer for me. In a purple state like Colorado, the US Senators have to govern to the center. Michael Bennet after being appointed by Governor Hickenlooper, had a tough reelection campaign in 2010 against Ken Buck. He’s proven his ability to work on both sides of the aisle including with junior Senator Cory Gardner. He stays out of papers and governs quietly.

Representative CD 2 – Jared Polis: I’ve known Jared and his partner Marlon Reis for a number of years. I think I first met Jared when he was managing his foundation and eventually on the state board of education. He is another guy who has to be sensitive to the Republicans in his district, which expands north and east. I’m okay with that.

I tend to support people I know – Republican or Democrat – and that’s no exception for these contested races:

CU Regent – Alice Madden

State Senator – Steve Fenberg

County Commissioners – Elise Jones, Deb Gardener

As for the judges, the blue book gave them all a pass. I’ll let them ride another term.

Constitutional Amendment T – YES: This reminds me of that Seinfeld pilot episode within an episode when a guy is sentenced to be Jerry’s butler. Rather than take this provision out of the constitution, the reference to slavery and involuntary servitude should have just been removed. There are plenty of similar punishments that happen in the forms of community service, restorative justice retribution, etc.

Constitutional Amendment U – NO: People / Corporations who use public land for private purposes should continue to pay taxes. The constitution is no place to be dealing with administrative costs as being a reason to exempt users from paying tax.

Constitutional Amendment 69 – YES: Big pharma and mega-insurance companies are against this one. If it passes, it will signal other states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act which has been a boon to big medicine. There are many people who will be turning 65 soon and enrolled in Medicare. Why should I be okay with paying a little more income tax? It’s for the common good. Besides, I don’t have kids in the public school system and I don’t complain about paying those taxes, because education is public good.

Constitutional Amendment 70 – YES: When I was a kid, I worked for the minimum wage, which was, seems like $1.32, and for a 12-year old that was a lot of money – especially when I was allowed to work sometimes 50 hours a week. What else did I have to do? The minimum wage isn’t supposed to be a living wage. It’s a benchmark. It’s a starting wage. The current $8.31 isn’t even a starting wage. However, for workers who think they can make a living on $9.50 / hour, I have news for them, they better get two jobs or get fit to work into something that is better paying. Small and micro business owners have a good gripe in that this could be an undo burden on them, but it’s a cost of doing business. If a small biz is just squeaking by paying workers $8 an hour, maybe it should evaluate the business model.

Constitutional Amendment 71 – NO: The reason the constitution gets amended so often is because if it isn’t in the constitution, the state legislature can change a law passed by referendum at the drop of a hat. If anything, the constitution should be amended to say that any law passed by referendum can be changed by the legislature, but any changes have to be by majority of each county’s legislators, independent of party of affiliation.

Constitutional Amendment 72 – YES: Taxes like these are paid by people who knowingly use a product that is bad for them like tobacco (in fact, it’s written on all the packages). Tobacco also happens to be addictive so it’s an easy sell. Tobacco smoking isn’t a right, it’s a choice. People who choose unhealthy options, regardless of reasons, also place a burden on the public health and safety through second hand smoke, avoidable health problems such as heart and lung disease. The bad lifestyle choosers also get into insurance pools driving up premium costs. This isn’t about tobacco users (they often think laws like this gang up on them) but rather about tobacco. Also, if this were only a law passed by referendum, the tobacco company lobbyists would have a hey day lining elected officials pockets to get the law gutted.

Proposition 106 – NO: I think there are adequate ways for caregivers to end a person’s life or a sick person to end their own life without adding this huge death industrial complex behind it. Let’s see, there’s Smith and Wesson, the left over oxycodon … This is a choice that a person makes after consultation with family friends, preacher, their dog. The government has no place in this decision.

Proposition 107 – YES: I imagine both political parties are against an open primary because it allows independent voters to vote in either partys presidential primary election. I don’t know how any one who stood in line for hours thinks the caucus system is better than a direct primary.

Proposition 108 – NO: While independent voters would be able to vote in a party primary for state and local candidates, it allows an exception for non-presidential candidates to be selected by a convention of party elites. This must be a compromise voter suppression measure proposed by the GOP.

Boulder County Issues 1A, 1B, 1c – YES: I always vote for the pittance of sales tax increases to maintain infrastructure including parks and open spaces. I seldom use the open spaces, but they are a public good.

Boulder County Issue 1d – NO: Term limiting candidates should be left up to the voters to decide. If the District Attorney is doing an okay job, let him/her serve as long as the public can stand them.

City of Boulder 2H – YES: This is a tax similar to the tobacco tax proposed in Amendment 72. If a person wants to make unhealthy choices, they should be willing to pay a little extra. The Big Gulp from 7-Eleven now costs $1.59 and a refill is $.99 – I’m pretty sure your average Big Gulp drinker would pay 50 cents extra. I know I won’t mind. I’ll continue to buy my fountain soda here, than travel to Longmont for my occasional to save on taxes.

City of Boulder 2I – NO: There are other ways to better utilize the Boulder water supplies. Denying land owners water isn’t the right way to do it. There’s a big debate happening in town now about residential growth. Allocation of scarce resources needs to be a more balanced approach.

City of Boulder 2J – NO: The city of Boulder council is not a full time job and providing access to benefits available to city employees encourages people to run for office not to serve, but to self serve because of the health insurance benefits.

City of Boulder 302 – NO: There is no need to legislate term limits. If anything, there should be another effort to establish city council wards in Boulder to create more equitable representation. Remember the time when two council members lived in the same house?

Boulder Valley School District 3A – Yes: Even though I don’t have kids in the school system, education is a public good. I helped on 2A many years ago which fixed the existing schools and built some new ones.

Yours truly, Michael and Jerry mugging at BIFF

Scientific and Cultural Facilities District 4b – YES: I am self-interested in this one. I’m a member of the Boulder International Film Festival board of directors and some of our funding is SCFD. This is one of most worthwhile taxes, particularly for small to medium sized arts organizations.

In another race of interest to me, I think this is the biggest game changer of all the overlooked elections in the country:

Wyoming CD At Large – Liz Cheney: I predict the Virginia carpetbagger and daughter of Dick Cheney will win in a landslide. She quasi-moved back to Wyoming to take the open seat held by Cynthia Lummis. I further predict that Cheney will ditch Wyoming after two terms and run for president in 2020 / 2024. Carpetbagging worked for Hillary Wyoming is a way easier path to the top than going through New York. If she wanted to take the big state route, Texas – corporate home to her dad’s firm Halliburton – would have been the obvious choice.

Keep affordable housing from being an elephant in the room

jim snow tree

Silver Sage Village in Boulder, Colorado consists of 10 market rate and six affordable homes.

The “Dealing with Diverse Personalities” retreat is coming up at the end of September – there’s still time time to sign up. The retreat is not for the faint of heart.

Like dealing with issues of housing affordability, it’s not an easy topic to discuss since it requires people to step out of their comfort zones.

Most affordable housing discussions are about density and development scale, parking, traffic, grants, public / private partnerships – the “stuff” of affordability.

Once built, however, affordable housing and the diversity that goes along with it can be sources of personal conflict which happen at the national, local and neighborhood levels. As a refresher, I’ve written about diversity and cultural competency as a prelude to the Arcosanti retreat and folds right into discussions about affordable housing.

There’s been quite a bit of discussion about affordability in cohousing. Here are a few of my observations about it which I originally wrote for the EcoEducation Village Institute.

In my past lives I was a city planner, then developed Habitat for Humanity affordable housing and served a term on the Boulder Planing Board. I currently live in an affordable cohousing home.

Silver Sage Village has 16 homes of which ten are market rate and six were built as part of the city of Boulder’s permanently affordable housing program.

Wild Sage cohousing across the street partnered with Habitat for Humanity as well as the city affordable program. Here are a few of my random thoughts and suggestions:

privilegeDiversity and cultural competency cross cut when it comes to affordable cohousing.

I suggest you have a serious and frank discussion among yourselves about why you personally – as opposed to philosophically – want affordable housing in your neighborhood.

Get strong commitments about all being willing to pay more money out of pocket to level the field for those who cannot otherwise afford to live there.

It’s obvious that partnering with others, rather than tackling affordable housing on your own is necessary. Even if you do find ways to subsidize building costs those don’t lower monthly Home Owner’s Association fees.

coho suburb aerial– I suggest you build the homes so they are all affordable to people / families of similar means. At Silver Sage, over the years, a perceived caste system arose. Dealing with a more socio-economically diverse community is a challenge for people, particularly since stereotyping may be involved.

The Silver Sage Village affordable homes are 800sqft and worth $150000 and limited in annual appreciation. The market rate homes are between 1100 and 2300sqft and valued at $500000 and $800000 and rising.

For the affordable home owners with limited appreciation, it’s a challenge to keep HOA fees equitable. Affordable homes are the same as market rate homes in the sense that the equity is earned differently. Rather than having to tie up large amounts of cash into a home, affordable homes are lesser expensive, in exchange for earning the equity in small annual chunks.

Becoming more culturally competent is a step toward breaking down the notions of privilege or lack, thereof.

– I suggest building all similar sized homes so the homeowner fees are more equally distributed. At Silver Sage fees range from $450+ to $650+/month which includes gas heat and water and build enough homes to spread around the fees. I think the sweet spot is around 32.

the-not-so-big-house– I suggest you design the homes ala “The not so big house” by Sarah Susanka to encourage residents to use the common house.

At Silver Sage the common house is used more by the affordable homeowners because our living spaces are smaller.

The common house here is used a majority of the time by by non-residents who rent it for studio and office space and outside events like meetings and classes. The market rate homes are designed like large homes in the suburbs and plopped into cohousing with large living rooms and big kitchens.

These are a few of my ideas and suggestions when considering whether or not you want to have affordable homes in your neighborhood / community. It’s not as easy decision to make, when you take into account the potential demographics of those who live in affordable housing.

Everyone each have different life experiences, current lifestyles, and it is imperative that all community members recognize these differences and learn how to embrace them in the contexts of their own lives.

If you  intellectually think affordable housing is a good idea, but not sure why it’s so hard for you to accept it emotionally, take a chance and step out of your comfort zones, sign up for the “Dealing for Diverse Personalities” retreat September 30 – October 2nd in Arcosanti, AZ.