June 2014 – Acupuncture and Yoga

alan michael yoga

My friend and colleague Michael Conti shot some yoga footage for my “Aging Gratefully” documentary series.

It’s been about a year since I started to hit the wall. No energy, lost a lot of weight. I even missed the Mighty Fudge Halloween party last year. As an update, I’ve noticed a few things lately.

My hair has become quite curly. My across the sidewalk, Jim, got a haircut, which is notice that I need a haircut. I usually let it grow out fairly long, but this time around it was curling up in the back.

I asked Riley at my haircut place about it. She said that there isn’t any hard evidence, but she has noticed that as men’s hair gets grayer, it starts to get curlier. She said, in her experience, it’s mostly men and fewer women.

Since I’ve been getting acupuncture every week, I thought it might have something to do with that. Apparently straight hair follicles are different that curly hair follicles and they get changed.

The last few weeks, my acupuncture treatments have included electro-stimulation for the Post Herpetic Neuralgia that’s settled into my left scalp and forehead.

In my case, e-stim entails an acupuncture treatment known as “surrounding the dragon.” Needles are placed into several points – generally on the crest of my head, on the eyebrow, in the cheek and in the temple-area. Micro-power leads are attached and low current flows through.

My observation, only two of the acupuncture practitioners I’ve seen are okay with the e-stim treatment. All the others see it as “non-traditional” which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Electric fish were used by the ancient Egyptians to relieve pain. The fish were placed over wounds. In the 1930s, acupuncturists in China refined the treatment using the acupuncture needles and batteries.

estim

Electro-stimulation treatment at the Southwest Acupuncture College

It is more of a Dr. Frankenstein – type treatment, but seems to work pretty well for me, but maybe the e-stim caused my hair to curl like when getting too close to lightning causes hair to stand on end.

The acupuncture clinic has also been aggressively treating my Interstitial Pneumonia. According to acupuncture theory, the lungs and skin are closely related since they are both exposed to the air.

I’ve been going to acupuncture since May. I don’t know if the treatments have been doing any good, but there has been remarkable improvement based on my x-rays.

The first one was taken when I was first transported to the Intensive Care Unit before the biopsy surgery in December.

My tissue samples were sent to the University of Michigan and turned out I had some exotic but “everyday bug” that was controlled by archaic sulfa drugs. Back in the early days of HIV, it was the type of pneumonia AIDS patients would get.

I was on high doses of steroids when I was carried from the hospital to the ambulance and taken to rehab. When I was released and a little stronger, the March xray showed pretty good improvement.

I was then tapered off the steroids and began acupuncture.

The second X-ray was taken later this summer after I’ve had 12 weeks of acupuncture treatments. My lung doctor continues to be amazed at my recovery, since in his view at the time, I should be dead by now.

I’ve been melding old world medicine in the forms of acupuncture at the acupuncture college clinic for my lung problems, neti pot flushing to rinse out my sinuses, gin soaked raisins for joint pain; with modern medicine through my insurance HMO.

I've been melding old world medicine like acupuncture with modern medicine.

I’ve been melding old world medicine like acupuncture with modern medicine.

The reason I’ve stayed with the same insurance carrier over the years is the HMO is one-stop shopping. I’ve had the same primary care doctor for many years and access to others in his group if I can’t get in to see him.

The main downside is the hospital and emergency services are located 15 miles away. That was a big hassle when I was laid up early in 2013 – 2014.

Anyway, there was a NPR radio segment on “Science Friday” yesterday about how smartphone apps are changing how health care is accessed.

That’s been very handy for me.

The Kaiser Permanente smartphone app is very handy for keeping track of my health.

The Kaiser Permanente smartphone app is very handy for keeping track of my health.

I use the KP app on the phone which is the same user inner face as the computer. I can access my health records, write to my docs. On the computer I can make and cancel appointments.

The best part is being able to communicate by email with my doctors. Over the past year, I’ve developed a long list of them from the main doctor, to surgeons to rheumatologists, to pulmonologists. They’re all pretty good at writing back and that saves on co-pays and trips to their offices.

It’s amazing what they can tell from blood tests.

In addition to keeping track with the app, I’ve been able to combine old world and new world medicine together successfully. I downloaded my health record and put it in my acupuncture health file.

That’s been useful since the herbalists there are able to see how my regular doctors have been treating me and can suggest acupuncture and herbal alternatives. KP offers acupuncture, but its clinic is pretty far to the east of me so I haven’t tried it.

There are also phone apps for acupuncture meridians.

There are also phone apps for acupuncture meridians.

The Southwest Acupuncture College Clinic is a lot like an HMO. Based on a patient’s needs, there are a variety of practices offered from acupuncture – needles, moxabustion; body work – shiatsu, tuina, cupping; herbal medicine; pain management and combinations of those practices. I have a smartphone app about the acupuncture meridians.

I’ve heard about people who refuse to use modern medicine in favor of traditional remedies.

There’s a reason people used to die when they were 40.

There’s room for both approaches in the same treatments. My post herpetic neuralgia got better with acupuncture and electrical stimulation and blood letting. My Kaiser doc put me on prescription drug neurontin and the combo has been reducing the pain.

I've been trying some kitchen remedies like gin - infused raisins for joint pain.

I’ve been trying some kitchen remedies like gin – infused raisins for joint pain.

Lately, I’ve heard about soaking golden raisins in gin for joint pain and arthritis. I haven’t asked my medical docs about it, but will report to them if I find it effective.

I made up a batch and have been eating nine gin-infused raisins daily.

I’ll report back any changes in my stiff fingers battered up from sports abuse and autoimmunity. A couple of my friends have reported that the raisin – gin concoction was effective.

The Little Yoga Studio is, in fact little, but has a great welcoming environment for beginners to expert yoga practitioners.

The Little Yoga Studio is, in fact little, but has a great welcoming environment for beginners to expert yoga practitioners.

My Kaiser doc did recommend the Neil Med / Neti Pot. I bought the starter kit for a couple bucks at the pharmacy and it worked instantly for my sinus dripping / nonallergic rhinitis. I use it a couple times a day with a couple shots of the prescription flonase in the morning.

Did I mention I’ve been going class at the Little Yoga Studio two or three times a week?

BOULDER, CO - SEPTEMBER 2: Lindy Cook and Alan O'Hashi pull weeds from the garden of the community with other residents September 2, 2015 at Silver Sage Village. The active adult cohousing community for those 55 or older is setup like a usual condo community with every person having their own place, but the sense of community is what is unique. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

BOULDER, CO – SEPTEMBER 2: Lindy Cook and Alan O’Hashi pull weeds from the garden of the community with other residents September 2, 2015 at Silver Sage Village. The active adult cohousing community for those 55 or older is setup like a usual condo community with every person having their own place, but the sense of community is what is unique. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

A month or so ago, a Denver Post reporter caught wind of the documentary I’m making about “aging in community”. The principle photography is done, but there are a couple stories that need updating and I’m gathering up some photos for extra coverage.

The movie is based on my “aha” experiences and perspectives learned after being pretty sick to the point of having the “end of life” and drastic “heart lung transplant” conversations with my doctors back during the summer of 2014. My colleague interviewed some of my Silver Sage Village neighbors about their perspectives about aging in an intentional community like cohousing.

The Denver Post article came out yesterday – the beginning of Labor Day weekend. There’s another chapter in this saga which marks the one year anniversary of me taking yoga classes.

In this town, that shouldn’t be too earth shattering at all. For a Wyomingite, it’s not the usual way to while away the hours. There’s an advertisement to attract former Wyoming people back to the state that says something to the effect that “we have latte’s and yoga” which are why an expat like myself should move back.

Yee Haw – git a long little downward facing dogie!

A

A “dogie” is a neglected calf that is eventually rescued and looked after.

Over the past 10 years or so, one of my annual missions is to take footage of all the entertainment along the Bolder Boulder route. The 2014 acid test was whether or not I could complete my usual task and finish the 10K. All went well, but I needed to take a swig of O2 going up the Folsom Street hill into the stadium.

A month later, I was given the okay to put the supplemental oxygen aside while weaning off of the prednisone. My chest x-ray in June wasn’t that great, and my lung doctor wasn’t very optimistic at all. That’s when I also started with aggressive treatments at the Southwest Acupuncture College Boulder Campus. I attribute my miraculous recovery to that, which is another story.

In retrospect, the Bolder Boulder probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, since my percent of oxygen was around 80 percent, which was pretty good, considering a couple months earlier it was in the 60s and 70s. I had gained back some of the 37 pounds I lost laying in the hospital for a month and half and I noticed the lost weight right a way since my inner knees didn’t ache.

Anyway, I was still very weak and had trouble lifting the milk jug out of the fridge and still not very stable on my feet, having taken a tumble on the step going into Silver Sage Village. I finally could push the clutch pedal on the Eurovan and I started driving, which also wasn’t a very good idea.

My occupational therapist had me trying to do push ups against the wall and half push ups on the floor. I couldn’t do either. Sit ups were painful because of the scarring from the leaky intestine ulcer that was also repaired. I didn’t want to lift weights or go to a gym. The OT couldn’t do anything more for me. When I relearned how to walk and my gait was straight, she turned me loose.

I was picking something up at McGuckin Hardware on the Sunday afternoon before Labor Day. I noticed the The Little Yoga Studio next door. There was a woman inside working on the computer at the front desk. They were closed, but she told me to take a schedule from the box by the door.

Being a Boulder guy, I wasn’t a yoga guy. Many years ago, Comcast used to have Core Power Yoga on TV in the mornings. I did that for awhile, then the practice started to include weights and equipment, which seemed out of context.

That gave me some knowledge and experience with the basic poses. Since my body was totally out of whack, I thought yoga would be more balanced than going to a gym, plus I only needed a mat – although I had sticker shock when I saw mats cost as much as $85. I needed to get stronger and more flexible. Shortly after Labor Day I made my first visit.

I really didn’t know what to expect since it was my first time in organized yoga practice, I thought it was more meditative, but I have come to learn that the Americanized versions of yoga are very different from it’s 5,000 year old traditional roots in south Asia. I was also surprised to learn that yoga in America is an 18 billion dollar a year industry. The yoga industrial complex includes, clothing, mats, equipment, food. In Boulder, you can’t turn around without your water bottle whacking into a yoga teacher.

Ronald McYoga

Ronald McYoga

I got a deal for yoga at one of the other studios in town. Turns out that was part of a yoga franchise – McYoga. It was a huge place with showers, a store with branded merchandise. That wasn’t for me – some of the same teachers work there, too.

My initial reasons for going to yoga class a couple times a weak were totally health and medical related. Some of the teachers give little dharma lessons at the beginning of the class.

At the beginning of one class the teacher gave a bit of a rant about how westernized yoga moved away from the traditional tenets, which wasn’t a good thing. and that there should be more attention paid to the original teachings.

That brought to mind an NPR radio story I heard six or seven years before, about a group in Fairhope, Alabama that wanted to take the original spirituality out of yoga and replace it with Christian spirituality, since they liked the asana part – physical aspects – of yoga, but not the meditative part.

At the time, that struck me as odd.

Now that I have more of an interest it really strikes me as odd.

I also remember this story because I mnemonically link it to a former basketball player from Fairhope who played at Wyoming named Quentin Higgins.

Afterwards, I talked to the teacher about this, and turns out there’s quite a bit of information out there about the topic of non-yoga yoga. I watched a documentary called “Yoga, Inc.” which was mostly about the lawsuit between yoga mogul Bikram Choudhury and some of his teachers about unauthorized uses of his yoga pose sequences.

Om

Om

The yoga classes are helpful for me physically. I was going a couple times a week with a day of recovery time in between. I now try to get there four or five consecutive times with a couple days of rest between. But also, I want to be around the practice more which is insightful. My journalistic curiosity always gets and best of me and I’m now researching American yoga for another documentary project.

I’m learning that horse has left the barn and there must be some other angle that hasn’t dawned on me yet about putting yoga back into yoga. I talked with a pal of mine about it. He said that whether India repatriates yoga is important from a historical perspective, but from a yoga perspective, he said, “Any yoga is good yoga.”

This Santa Claus is the nexus between Christmas and yoga.

This Santa Claus is the nexus between Christmas and yoga.

The reason I like the Little Yoga Studio is because the teachers tell a story to go along with the day’s class.

Today the teacher mused that the December holiday season pushes everyone to be extroverts which can be stressful. For introverts like me it was fitting that the day’s practice focused on grounding. It was helpful for me mentally and physically.

Considering last year on Christmas and New Years, I was flat on my back at the Good Samaritan Hospital recovering from emergency surgery, I’m much better.

My robot care givers - monitors that check out how I was doing at any moment.

My robot care givers – monitors that check out how I was doing at any moment.

I really can’t remember what I did on Christmas 2013 since I had undiagnosed sepsis and had no appetite, lost 30 pounds, apparently pretty drugged up.

This December holiday season, a friend of mine, Med, is in rehab at Manor Care in north Boulder and likely there over Christmas and New Years.

I pop in on him whenever I drive by.

From experience, being laid up is lonely and because of societal pressure the holidays seem to be lonelier than all the other lonely days in confinement.

I was at Manor Care in Denver and was in a craft class where we painted Bronco balls.

I was at Manor Care in Denver and was in a craft class where we painted Bronco balls.

I did two weeks time at the Manor Care in Denver after my four-week hospital stint. When I stop by to see Med, there are certain sights and smells that bring back fond memories, which is a little strange to me.

I was finally sprung from there in time for the Super Bowl. Wheel chair and walker restricted.

This Christmas I’m mostly back to health and fully upright. Yoga has helped me regain my strength and balance. I now find myself over-reacting to “symptoms” that I notice in myself. You hear about people who “over-use” the medical care system and now I know why – prevention is the best medicine.

I’m now one of those people.

Fortunately, my doctors are open to consultations using email and phone calls. It’s amazing to me how much they can tell from blood tests. I am grateful for all the health care providers from the CNAs and docs who kept me alive. They barely keep a person kicking, but that’s good enough.

My Coca Cola Santa doll makes an appearance once a year.

My Coca Cola Santa doll makes an appearance once a year.

Even though I prefer to live in the present, I do have some remnants of Christmas past including a stocking made by my mom and a Santa Claus from my dad. He worked for Coca Cola for 40 years and passed Santa dolls around the neighborhood.

Back in the day, Coke was known for the Santa Claus Christmas ads – now culturally incorrect.

He only gets out of the box for a week or so every year and he’s still in pretty good condition.

The Coke tree ornaments in the image are also Coke advertising premiums.

The cat from the angel-cam. The angel was a project of my mom's.

The cat from the angel-cam. The angel was a project of my mom’s.

My mom had craftsy Christmas projects every year. I still have a crocheted angel that hangs atop the tree. She must have starched then ironed it.

Both my parents are gone now and so have the Christmas traditions.

Coming up with new traditions is easier said than done.

Waiting outside The Little Yoga Studio.

Waiting outside The Little Yoga Studio.

For those of you who have your parents still around, spend some time talking about the future and not just about estate planning but more importantly tradition planning.

Before you have family meetings like this, I suggest taking some yoga classes.

Today, looser hips and thighs have made me more aware of my root chakra – bring on the Christmas havoc!

Meanwhile, I’ll be continuing to “age in c(OM)unity”.

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Silver Sage Village Tree Inventory – August 2017

 

 

Tiny House Cohousing?

green creek rv park

The Green Creek Hotel and RV park is the model for tiny house cohousing infrastructure. On the horizon is the Smith Mansion, which has an odd history.

On the road in Wyoming last week one night was spent at the Green Creek Inn and RV park. If you’ve stayed in camping / RV parks there’s, generally, an area set aside for semi-permanent places for longer-stay RVers.

In Wyoming, they are seasonal park workers, oil and gas field workers, hard-core hunters and fishers.

There’s been talk about low cost housing types for Millennials paying off student debt, seniors seeking nursing home alternatives and marginalized populations like homeless vets.

Forms of cooperative and collaborative approaches float to the surface. Tiny houses are low cost to construct and lots of them can be crammed onto a piece of ground. As such, there are cities that are building tiny houses for the homeless population.

A few years ago, I helped organize a Regional Cohousing Conference in Boulder. There were around 90 people in attendance from the US, Canada and Australia with various interests in this collaborative housing form.

This is tiny house that is 21' by 8.5' in size with a fairly tall ceiling.

This is tiny house that is 21′ by 8.5′ in size with a fairly tall ceiling.

In a past life, I used to be a city planner in Wyoming and a member the Boulder Planning Board in Colorado, as well as the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley in Longmont. I studied ecological biology and environmental politics as an undergrad and grad student. How to live a balanced life in both the human and natural environments has always been an interest of mine.

The cohousing idea is a little bit about the buildings, but it’s more about setting up an old fashioned sense of community in which residents participate in the design, character and culture of their neighborhoods. With an itinerant population like homeless people, creating a sense of community would be a challenge.

The cohousing idea originated in Scandanavia, which is a bit more communal and socialistic than in the US. Here, cohousing tries to adapt communal tenets into the “rugged individualism” of America.

The pitfalls of that evolution was the main topic of the Regional Cohousing Conference which was entitled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” I’ve written a post or two about those issues.

cohousing2

This is a 500 sq ft tiny house that has a 1-car garage and a balcony.

Over the past few years, interest in “tiny houses” has been growing. That is, people choosing to live in homes that are from 200 to 600 sq ft in size.

They are generally built on a “flat bed” and can be wheeled around from place to place, but also can be built on a foundation, but that kicks in an entirely different set of building requirements. Tiny houses on skids or wheels fall into the land use category of mobile homes.

They are far different than your standard mobile home. Regular mobile homes can be the size of stick built houses that incorporate some space saving design features. If you google “tiny house” lots of websites and images pop up.

How about this idea – a cohousing community  that consists of tiny houses?

It makes sense to me.

The biggest hurdle for traditional cohousing, as well as regular housing, for that matter, is money.

Cohousing homes are houses with no lot lines with the development and individual houses

Cohousing homes are houses with no lot lines with the development and individual houses “designed” with input by the resident / community members. This home in Silver Sage Village recently sold for $750,000.

Money for land, money for the development. Because cost is such a huge factor, homes are constructed that maximize profit. This generally means expensive houses crammed onto a tiny space. How about the opposite – inexpensive houses on tiny spaces, that results in more open spaces?

Tiny houses cost anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 and can be parked in friends’ back yards. They are often built with sweat equity. There’s a cable tv show about downsizing baby boomers, young couples and individuals making the move to drop out of the “bigger is better” society. Some tiny homeowners want to be more mobile, others are sedentary.

With tiny houses, a cohousing organizer wouldn’t need near as much space as a typical coho development. It would depend on the rules, but a tiny house development would likely be more transient.

Utilities could be “hook ups” like in an RV park. Decisions would have to be made, based on political jurisdiction about individual septic or a septic field or central wastewater collection; individual water cisterns or central water.

I would think there would be some amenities like streets, sidewalks, open space, in addition to the common house.

This is the interior of a tiny house that through innovative design maximizes the space.

This is the interior of a tiny house that through innovative design maximizes the space.

At the typical RV park, the longer-stay “residents” have access to the common showers / restrooms, laundry, the little store and breakfast available to the overnight campers.

I can envision a common house that is more permanent, though. As a monetary hedge against potentially higher turnover rates, the common house could be mixed use with community amenities like the open dining area, kitchen, laundry facilities, TV room, guest rooms, with business tenants or owners like a convenience store, coffee shop, business offices, laundromat and the like.

I happened to be at a commercial development in Highlands Ranch – a ‘burb of Denver. There was high and medium density housing on the back side and mixed use / commercial fronting on the main drag and a strip mall with convenient services like coffee shops and kitschy stores that also included large box retail which require lots of parking.

Highlands Ranch is more known as a typical “cul de sac” nation and not as a “sustainable” community – intentional ir not.

Because tiny houses are small, neighbors would be more likely to frequent the common house, than in some traditional cohousing communities in which homes are the same as in suburbia with large living rooms, utility rooms, large kitchens. Neighbors go in their house and you don’t see them again.

Sarah Susanka says that buying a home strictly for

Sarah Susanka says that buying a home strictly for “resale” value isn’t the best choice.

There are the unfounded housing characteristics necessary for resale, as espoused by Sarah Susanka author of “Not So Big House.”

Susanka, who is also an architect, says that the sense of “home” has less to do with quantity and everything to do with quality. She points out that we feel “at home” in our houses when where we live reflects who we are in our hearts.

I heard her speak at Denver University a few years ago. The examples that stuck with me are those of the “den” and “dining room.” She asked the huge audience about who uses their den and who eats in the dining room. Not many hands went up.

I’d say that, for the most part, communities still have a bias AGAINST mobile home parks and hold the “trailer trash” stereotype. In a place like Boulder, there would be an uproar about this as a form of affordable housing. The best place to try this out would be where land is inexpensive and there is less of an elitist attitude.

At the coho conference, I was talking to a fellow filmmaker from Minnesota, who also lives in cohousing, about the idea of tiny house cohousing.

I’ll plant the seed here, but it may take me developing the idea in order for me to document it.

lincoln court old postcard

Click on the Lincoln Court image to check out and download the draft business plan.

As it turns out, I am trying to get interest in a mixed use intentional community located in Cheyenne, Wyoming called the Lincoln Court. We had our first informational meeting with participants naming “tiny houses” as one of the possible land uses, along with cohousing, apartments, coworking offices, gallery and performance space and studios.

The project is moving forward with a draft business plan available. Check it out. The project is planning for a tiny house village to diversity apartments, and two affordable cohousing projects offering stick-built town houses and cottages.

Anyone interested in building a tiny house in a cohousing community?

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This article was originally published in December 2014, but updated, in part due to a wordpress glitch that obliterated the story.

‘Aging Gratefully: The Power of Good Health and Good Neighbors’ test screens April 25th

alan mri machine

Filmmaker Alan O’Hashi had to take a “before” and “after” MRI as a participant in the FORCE Study. Get free tickets for the movie test screening by clicking on the photo.

“Aging Gratefully: The Power of Good Health and Good Neighbors” has a first cut test screening at the Dairy Arts Center – Boedecker Theater. Doors 630pm – cash bar and snacks in the Polk Cafe – movie at 7pm. Tickets are free, but sign up so we can keep track of seats.

Check out the facebook event page. Tickets are free, but sign up on eventbrite so we can keep track of people since the Boedecker has limited seating

Filmmaker and Silver Sage Village senior cohousing resident Alan O’Hashi is mostly recovered from his 2013 death bed illness. As a result of that experience he’s become much more aware of his health, almost to the point of hypochondria.

One of his neighbors circulated information about a research study at the University of Colorado about the effects of exercise on brain health.

Curious, he applied and was selected to be a research subject. To measure success, the criteria emotional health and strength of relationship building.

gtc group toast

Residents of the Germantown Commons cohousing community in Nashville, TN enjoy a neighborly get together.

Is living in an intentional community, such as cohousing, an added benefit to physical exercise? He interviewed CU researcher Angel Bryan about her research to gain an empirical perspective and six residents of newly-formed Germantown Commons to find out their anecdotal motivations to living in cohousing and whether living intentionally with neighbors was a positive experience and what physical activities happen in a group setting.

Germantown Commons Residents:
– Essie Sappenfield (retired)
– Doug Luckes (still working)
– Suzanne Glasgow (still working)
– Sarah Carroll (single mom)
– Chris Corby (still working)
– Ginger Lange (retired)
– Vicki Metzgar (retired)

Also Appearing:
– Bryan Bowen, AIA (Caddis Architects)
– Angela Bryan PhD,( Principal Investigator CU FORCE study)

Post inaugural conversation: ‘when do self interests end and community begin’?

trump-rally-fight

The 2016 election exposed huge cultural divides in the United States. In a post-inauguration world, how can we bridge the gaps?

Whether you like the outcome of the national election or not, the results exposed glaring divisions in society around gender, social class and immigration status. We want to change the story about civility and our personal interactions with others.

One thing we all have is a personality. Our backgrounds and experiences influence how we deal with others, why we put our needs ahead of others.

Collaborative communities such as coop housing and cohousing which are inherently defined as being inclusive and work toward the good of the whole may hold some answers about bridging cultural, social and economic divides … but:

  • Do American cultural norms contradict “community”? We’re socialized to be rugged individuals, pull our selves up by our boot straps, bigger houses, earn more money.
  • Now that Boulder is an immigrant “Sanctuary” – where will our new neighbors live? Boulder hung out a big “vacancy” sign welcoming immigrants of any status to town and at the same time approved cooperative  housing.
  • How do we reach out to those not “like us?” Folks intellectually get the idea of equity and inclusion, but easier said than done in community that is not very “diverse” in the first place.
  • Do egos sometimes get in the way with self or personal interests pushed on the larger community? Hubris among all creates stale mates and zero sum games.
  • As individuals what are we willing to give up for the good of the whole? Based on traditional American cultural norms each of us has deep values choices to make.

We likely won’t solve all the neighborhood or world problems but you’re invited to bring your brown bag lunch and have a great conversation to meet your neighbors:

Bring your lunch and 100 of your closest friends!
Tuesday, January 24
11:30am to 1:00pm-ish
Wild Sage Village Common House
(Enter through the courtyard door)
1650 Zamia – Boulder, CO 80304

living-room-conv-logoThe mission of “Living Room Conversations” is to cultivate respectful engagement among people who may hold different points of views, and build relationships that generate understanding and enable collaborative problem solving.

Two North Boulder cohousing residents will facilitate the conversation:

Both are members of the Living Room Conversation team embarking on a pilot project in North Boulder and sponsored by the city of Boulder.

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.

I was an illegal worker in Mexico

francisco lopez barajas

My business partner in Zacatecas Mexico Faustino Lopez Barajas.

I generally only write about things that I’ve experienced personally. I’m becoming more convinced with the recent flood of children crossing the into Texas, that the United States has the most porous border of any nation in the world.

Let me tell you about the time I was shaken down by soldiers with machine guns for being an illegal worker in Mexico. It was a very helpless feeling.

Maybe it’s that poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty by Emma Lazarus:

tablette-statue-de-la-liberte

Turns out, if you’re from a European country, this quote is more applicable.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Most other countries have largely indigenous populations that have lived there for centuries. The US, on the other hand, conquered the locals fair and square, and that was just over 200 years ago. 

I did business in Mexico for six years or so starting in 1992 when the North American Free Trade Act went into effect. Then US Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown held a bunch of meetings around the country, including one in Denver. I was working for the Northern Arapaho Tribe at the time in economic development and went down to check it out. At that time, the tribe was looking to sell its hay.

hotel sombrerete

Downtown Sombrerete

After all the speeches, there was a round table session with representatives from businesses in Mexico. Most everyone split and left all these business people sitting alone. I stuck around and sat down with a group of guys from a credit union based in a small town called Sombrerete in the state of Zacatecas. It’s located in the north central part of Mexico. We hit it off and they invited me down for a visit.

A friend and colleague of mine flew down to check things out. A couple tribal guys – Fred and Gary – and I started up the 600 acre Arapaho Farms. The Arapaho Tribe was big into sustainable agriculture at the time and was interested in farming practices in Mexico – like using a tree branch hooked up to a mule as a harrow. As it turned out the farming thing in Mexico didn’t work out.

Meanwhile I began consulting for a marketing company based in Boulder which had a manufacturing facility in Alamosa, Colorado. They made and sold hair accessories. The manufacturing costs, even in Alamosa were too high.

francisco mexico city

Francisco at the Mexico City factory.

I mentioned that I had experience in Mexico and when I was down there before, I learned that some of the small towns would be devoid of working age people – mostly men – who went to the US to work – many illegally. I figured out that workers would rather stay in their home towns rather than leave, but there is no work in the middle-of-nowhere Mexico. The immigration policies favored US businesses wanting to create jobs there.

My idea was to recruit home sewers and assemblers in Sombrerete to make the hair accessories, rather than establish on the US – Mexico border, which is the generally accepted maquilla model.

maquila worker

The factory in Zacatecas.

The operation called Luna Llena at its peak employed two shifts of 50 people. We had a bonded warehouse on the border in McAllen, Texas. The first shipment was a disaster, though. How the process works is simple. The idea is to send 10 straps, 10 beads and 10 feathers through customs in Mexico. Then the materials are assembled and the completed 10 pony tail holders are then shipped to the US warehouse.

The finished inventory didn’t match up with the raw materials list. After getting that workflow figured out, everything went smoothly.

One of the best things about Mexico is the time zones are the same as the US. I sometimes flew into Guadalajara or Zacatecas, but mostly flew into Mazatlan in the state of Sinaloa, hung around the beach for a few days then took the bus to Sombrerete. “Papers? We don’t need no stinkin’ papers!” I traveled uneventfully on a passport and a tourist visa for five years.

In 1997 President Clinton and the President of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo signed an agreement hoping to stem illegal immigration and drugs from flowing to the US.

clinton zedillo

US President Clinton and El Presidente de Mexico Ernesto Zedillo

One of my business partners, Francisco,  was driving us from Sombrerete to Zacatecas in a beat up Toyota pickup with expired California plates. Just outside the town of Fresnillo we were stopped by an armed cadre of soldiers.

We were ordered out of the truck and handed over our papers. I had my US passport and the tourist visa from Mazatlan, which immediately caused problems.

Francisco and I were separated. He was worked over in Spanish and I was worked over in English. A third soldier emptied the truck and tossed my suitcase and repacked it. After an hour we were cleared to go, but not quite. My suitcase was again turned upside down and rechecked for contraband.

I was an illegal in central Mexico on a tourist visa from a coastal state.

They let us go.

I did go through the process to get a visa to work in Mexico. It’s not as big of a deal as it is in the US. I had to get a letter from my partner about the nature of our manufacturing work and took it to the Embassy for Mexico in Denver, pay $125 and I was granted a work visa.

There are plenty of isolationists, including Donald Trump, who want to close the US borders to immigrants – legal or illegal – who at the same time are against moving US jobs off shore.

I’m convinced that the best way to stem immigration from Latin America is for international companies from the US and elsewhere of all sizes to move there and create jobs for locals.

My gig in Sombrerete was good while it lasted.

What happened?

Francisco’s brother, Faustino, was the brains of the operation. He was the only guy among his group who spoke English and had a US visa. On his way to Colorado, he became very ill. Turned out he had cancer.

He moved himself and his extended family to Mexico City for better medical care and eventually died. Francisco moved the factory to Mexico City, which made a sense in a lot of ways and took the business in a different direction and sewed clothing.

I haven’t been back to Sombrerete or Mexico lately. Looking back, it was very isolating being the only English speaker for miles around. Communication was exhausting and I wore out a couple English – Spanish dictionaries.

I hear that Ecuador is now a big haven for expat Americans but I don’t think I’d want to live among them.