Caboose and Cactus Arroyo

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, June 2016

My office replaced a swimming pool. WP668 is the 100-year-old railroad caboose in San Jose, California (“the Capital of the Silicon Valley“) where I work for Mentoring Standard.  Above is WP668 in our backyard now, and below is what the same space looked like in the year 2000.  The swimming pool was removed ten years ago – see more photos on the WP668 webpage.

family in the swimming pool in 2000

I designed the landscape setting for WP668 based on large rocks and cactuses, including a Y-shaped arroyo (or dry creek) that is small enough to be called an arroyito.  Like the bones of California, our arroyito is largely made up of granite, basalt, limestone, and quartz, with jasper, serpentine, sandstone, conglomerates, and other stones for variety.  We bought two large boulders from South Bay Materials but the other rocks were adopted as individuals.  Every time we go on vacation or a road trip, we come home with new garden rocks, so the arroyito becomes more solid and complex year-by-year.  My family complains when they have to ride home from a trip with their feet on top of the latest stones headed for the arroyito but they still help me stuff rocks into the car.

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Standing Up in Court

Santa Clara County California, Hall of Justice and Main Jail, San Jose 21 July 2016

For the first time, today I was a witness in a criminal justice hearing. As I wrote on 11 April 2016, I have been teaching in jail every week as part of Education for Ministry (EfM), an extension program of the University of the South – School of Theology, for which I am an Accredited Mentor and the El Camino Real Diocesan Coordinator.

One of the Elmwood Jail student-mentees in my EfM seminar had a Romero hearing today and I was in court as a character witness. “The People of the State of California v. Superior Court (Romero), 13 CAL. 4TH 497, 917 P.2D 628 (Cal. 1996), was a landmark case in the state of California that gave California Superior Court judges the ability to dismiss a criminal defendant’s ‘strike prior’ pursuant to the California Three-strikes law, thereby avoiding a 25-to-life minimum sentence” (quote from Wikipedia).  In today’s Romero hearing, the Defendant (my student-mentee) had the opportunity to reduce his sentence from an indeterminate number of years (that is, being sentenced to triple digit years without parole) to a sentence that may be completed during his lifetime.  I was the only witness present in court today but others had written letters to the judge asking for mercy in his case.  The hearing was brief but thorough.  The judge listened to me and the lawyers for the Defendant and Plaintiff (“the people”), then reviewed submitted documents.  What seemed to make a positive difference in this case was that the Defendant:

  • Has shown remorse and accepted responsibility for his actions
  • Has demonstrated a sustained change in his behavior, character, and prospects for the future
  • Did not use physical violence
  • Is middle aged already

I was glad that the judge ruled in favor of the Defendant today and gave him a sentence of 30 years without parole.  My student-mentee will be an old man when he gets out of prison but with luck and good behavior, he will get out someday.  This was the result he had hoped for.

When I serve each year as a Mentor in the TechWomen program of the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, my Mentees may go on to start businesses, accelerate their professional careers, attend graduate school, and change the world for the better.  When I am a Mentor each year for the EfM class hosted by Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church,  my student-mentees after four years of study graduate with more awareness of their personal ministry and with a solid education in the Bible, church history, theology, and ethics.

I am learning that as a Mentor for an EfM seminar in a county jail, my student-mentees gain the same education and potential for awareness of their personal ministry but have smaller potential to change the world for the better.  Even after they leave jail or prison, their socioeconomic status is so low that their prospects are modest as members of the community.  I am learning to celebrate the wins we can get, among them: passing the high school equivalency exam, reconciling with family, being accepted into a good reentry program, and getting a positive Romero judgement as we did today.

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Santa Clara County California, Hall of Justice, San Jose 26 May 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

TechWomen at Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Last week, I enjoyed attending the Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016 hosted by the University of San Francisco. Technovation was the single most popular formal mentoring program mentioned by the Mentoring Standard Certified Mentors (see the “First Mentors – What We Learned” report), so I have heard about its excellence from many sources.  Technovation was founded in 2009 to offer girls the opportunity to learn how to start a company and become high-tech entrepreneurs.  It is now a global competition reaching thousands of girls.  This year’s winners were:

  • First Place, High School: Team A, “OOL” from Mexico
  • First Place, Middle School: California Coders, “Loc8Don8” from the United States

The pitch videos from all of the finalists are well worth watching.  In addition to the awards given to the girls’ teams, TechWomen‘s own Dr. Amel Gouila (Bioinformatician at the Institut Pasteur de Tunis) from Tunisia was honored as The Technovation Regional Ambassador of the year.  In advance of the awards, there were inspiring speeches by:

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Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

USF, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Thoko Miya, South African Master Educator, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Ask Ada, USA Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Angels Tech of Africa, Cameroon Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

HAI Moldova Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

IDF, InDaFridge, Canada Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

TransUG Uganda Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Amel Gouila and the Born to Tech Tunisia Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Ismail Aziza of Palestine and Thoko Miya of South Africa, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Ismail Aziza and Katy Dickinson, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Guido van Rossum and Katy Dickinson, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Marie Claire Murekatete with Rwanda flag, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Dr. Amel Gouila, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Tara Chklovski, Katy Dickinson, Dorothée Danedjo and Cameroon Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Visiting California Missions

Katy Laura Jessica July 2016

Laura Biche and Jessica Dickinson Goodman and I enjoyed a girls’ road trip on Saturday – part of our long-term “Visit All the California Missions” project. We went to San Antonio de Padua (Jolon), Nuestra Senora de Soledad (Soledad), and San Juan Bautista (in San Juan Bautista) – and ate ice cream twice!   Along the way, we also visited the Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church (near Jolon – on the Fort Hunter Liggett Army Base) and other sights of interest.

Untitled

Sheridan Tank, Fort Hunter Liggett near Jolon CA

An odd thing we noticed: all three missions we visited had what looked like the exact same bronze statue honoring Saint Junipero Serra (who founded 9 of the 21 missions).  It will be interesting to see if the rest of the missions have the same one.
Saint Junipero Serra, Mission Nuestra Senora de Soledad

Looking at the Missions Map, we figure we need to go on at least four more road trips to complete our project:

4 Missions: Sonoma, San Francisco North Bay, San Francisco, Fremont Area

3 Missions: South San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz, Carmel Area

6 Missions: San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura Area

5 Missions: Los Angeles and San Diego Area

Pictures of Mission San Antonio de Padua (Jolon)

Mission San Antonio de Padua, Jolon California
1773 First California Marriage, Mission San Antonio de Padua, Jolon California
Laura Biche and Cat, Mission San Antonio de Padua, Jolon California, July 2016
Jessica in little doorway, Mission San Antonio de Padua, Jolon California, July 2016
Church, Mission San Antonio de Padua, Jolon California, July 2016

Pictures of Mission Nuestra Senora de Soledad (Soledad)

Mission Nuestra Senora de Soledad
Garden, Mission Nuestra Senora de Soledad, Soledad California, July 2016
Church, Mission Nuestra Senora de Soledad, Soledad California, July 2016
Museum, Mission Nuestra Senora de Soledad, Soledad California, July 2016

Pictures of Mission San Juan Bautista (in San Juan Bautista)

Entry and Bell, Mission San Juan Bautista
Statue of Saint John, Mission San Juan Bautista, California July 2016
Statue of Junipero Serra, Mission San Juan Bautista, California July 2016
Church Service, Mission San Juan Bautista, California July 2016
Bells, Mission San Juan Bautista, California July 2016

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California Missions book and bell 18 July 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Scary Crazies

Scary biker in Willow Glen CA 13 July 2016

Twice this week, I have been threatened by scary crazy guys. On 13 July, when John Plocher and I were driving home, we witnessed a bike rider threatening a woman and child on the street with a utility knife. Here is the story John posted on the Willow Glen Neighbor‘s group to warn people:

Just witnessed some really scary behavior driving home from dinner – a bike rider was threatening and swearing at a woman and her child waiting at the crosswalk at the Bird and Willow intersection, a man stopped his truck and got out to support the woman – at which point the bike rider threw down his bike and pulled a knife on the 3 of them. My wife called 911 as this was going on; I pulled out my phone and aimed it at him, telling him to drop the knife – at which point he hopped on his bike and rode away eastbound along Willow before dropping his bike at Tina’s and running. Nobody physically hurt – though I’m sure the woman and her child were terrified. San Jose Police Department is on it.  Here’s a picture of the bike rider – please be careful if you see him.

Then, on Saturday, 16 July, Laura and Jessica and I were driving to visit the San Antonio de Padua Mission near Jolon and stopped to look at some interesting rocks. A little way up the road, a crazy middle aged white guy in a parked white sedan started shrieking obscenities at us. When he got out of his car and started running toward us waving his arms violently and screaming, we went back to our car and locked the doors. He then returned to his car and drove off.

It is hard to know what to do during such events – trying to stay safe and keep others safe – and it is surprising how hard it is to describe someone when making a police report later. The incident is so upsetting, details like the color of the man’s shirt and backpack slip away. Somewhere between 4% and 18% of the USA is mentally ill – and about half of those who have a substance abuse disorder are also mentally ill (see “Mental Health by the Numbers” for details).  I think I met two of the more violent ones.

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San Antonio de Padua Mission near Jolon CA 16 July 2016

Katy Jessica Laura 16 July 2016

Image Copyright 2016 by John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

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Shakespeare in Ashland for our 16th Anniversary

Nut Tree Train Vacaville California 1 July 2016

John and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary last weekend with a road trip to Ashland, Oregon.  On the drive north from San Jose, we visited the Nut Tree Train in Vacaville and saw Shasta Lake full of water (a welcome sight after a long drought).

While in Ashland, we enjoyed a clever and entertaining production of Twelfth Night by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (set in 1930’s Hollywood, with twins Viola and Sebastian doubled by one actress), celebrated with an excellent dinner with Rogue River Valley wine at Amuse Restaurant, and enjoyed long walks in historic Lithia Park.

On the drive home, we visited our favorite rock shop (Consolidated Rock & Mineral in Vacaville) and commemorated our anniversary with the purchase of a Crinoidea sea lily double fossil, originating in the Paleozoic Era by way of Morocco. On the way home, we had dinner at Bud’s Pub & Grill in Dixon, which has more animal hunting trophies hanging on its walls than anyplace I have seen. It was a delightful celebration!

Lake Shasta California 1 July 2016

Twelfth Night at Oregon Shakespeare Festival Ashland 2 July 2016

Katy Dickinson and John Plocher Ashland Oregon 2 July 2016

Amuse Restaurant dessert Beignets, Ashland Oregon 2 July 2016

Lithia Park Ashland Oregon 2 July 2016

Meyer Lake ducks in Lithia Park, Ashland Oregon 2 July 2016

deer in Lithia Park, Ashland Oregon 2 July 2016

Cascade Range, Shasta River California 3 July 2016

Mount Shasta on Highway 5, California, 2 July 2016

sunflowers Dixon California 2 July 2016

Crinoidea sea lily fossil from Paleozoic Era from Consolidated Rock and Mineral, Vacaville California 2 July 2016

Buds Pub in Dixon California 2 July 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Diplomacy and Community-Building

San Jose California City Hall, 28 June 2016

Just over a year ago, I was in Salt Lake City as one of the Official Bloggers from the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR) for the Episcopal General Convention (GC).  At GC, I witnessed remarkable diplomacy and community-building, especially with regard to the historic approval of the very controversial resolutions to create marriage equality in the Episcopal Church.  The way this debate was managed has become my standard for excellence in respectful balancing of sides during heartfelt controversy.  An excerpt from my 1 July 2015 post:

“Marriage equality has been passionately discussed for 39 years in our church and even today there were serious, prayerful, and heartfelt objections raised.  Rev. Gay Clark Jennings (President of the House of Deputies, HofD) asked that the House maintain decorum and respect – as celebrations on one side could only be hurtful to our brothers and sisters taking the opposite view. Chaplain Rev. Lester V. Mackenzie lead HofD in prayer and song before each vote. Over a thousand people were present for this historic decision. We will be processing what is means to us and to our church for many years to come.”

In a highly-local and much less important community debate, on 28 June 2016, the San Jose Mayor and City Council voted to approve that the highly-controversial Road Diet be made permanent in my home neighborhood of Willow Glen.  This final decision was welcomed by many and deeply regretted by as many.  The way the discussion was handled did little to rebuild the community strength that the discussion has eroded during the last year. My husband John Plocher and I were among those who formally spoke against the decision, out of about a dozen citizens who were given one minute each to address the Mayor and City Council.  We only came away with a tiny win: as part of making the “Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project” permanent, the City Council also voted to ban adult bicyclists from riding on the sidewalks of Lincoln Avenue – a welcome change for the better!

I wrote on 17 June 2016  how the problems with the Willow Glen Road Diet sort into categories, of which one was Community Trust:

“The way that the Road Diet was managed caused anger and mistrust of city government among most of the people I interviewed.  …  Many Willow Glen residents are looking forward to electing a new City Council representative in November 2016.  Of the five problems, this loss of trust has the greatest destructive potential for our community.”

When I compare the diplomacy and sensitivity with which the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings managed the raging discussions last summer with the rough  “take it or leave it” style in which our local Road Diet controversy was managed, I feel that San Jose’s leadership does not shine.  I hope that now the decision is made, San Jose’s City Council and neighborhood groups like the Willow Glen Business Association (WGBA), and Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (WGNA) will start to rebuild the community peace that was lost to the Road Diet controversy.

WGBA Board meetings are open to the public: 8 am on the Second Tuesday of Every Month, at the Willow Glen Community Center (2175 Lincoln Ave., San José).

The next WGNA Board meeting will be Thursday, 28 July starting at 7 pm at the Willow Glen Public Library (1157 Minnesota Ave., San José). Meeting is open to Members and Residents.

Katy Dickinson speaking to San Jose Mayor and City Council 28 June 2016

John Plocher speaking to San Jose Mayor and City Council 28 June 2016

Candidate Dev Davis speaking in favor of the Road Diet, to San Jose Mayor and City Council 28 June 2016

Walk Your Bike. Make a Friend. poster, San Jose CA 28 June 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher

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