Tag Archives: Willow Glen

Extra Gear? Gifts for Sierra Leone

Gifts for Sierra Leone trip June-July 2017

My daughter Jessica and I will be visiting Families Without Borders in Sierra Leone next week with Terri Khonsari. If you have any extra laptops or smart phones we can bring – no matter how old or dead – the students will be delighted with your donation. Please contact me soon!

I have visited the inspiring and fascinating continent of Africa at least once a year since 2010. With TechWomen Delegations, I have been to Morocco and Tunisia in North Africa, plus participating in Delegations to Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and South Africa below the Sahara. With People to People, John and I visited Ethiopia. My only actual vacation in Africa was to Egypt in 2010 – a much longer trip than planned since our family was stranded there by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano.  This will be my first trip to West Africa.

I bring gifts on each trip for our generous hosts and for new friends and colleagues. For my first TechWomen Delegations, I had custom pencils made but more recently, I have brought San Francisco keychains and geeky pens and toys given away at events like the Grace Hopper Conference.  For this trip, I bought keychains, the Willow Glen Wells Fargo Bank branch gave me a big bag of red pens, and I am also bringing packages of stickers for the children.

However, the best present for the students in Sierra Leone would be empowerment and greater connection to the wider world.  Your outdated computer gear can help them.  I hope to hear from you!

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Image Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Filed under Home & Family, Hopper - Anita Borg Institute, Mentoring & Other Business, News & Reviews

Easter Egg Hunt 2017

Thoko Miya and WP668 - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9858

Catching up on my postings… Easter was on Sunday 16 April in 2017 and as usual we had friends, family, and neighbors over for a potluck brunch and Easter Egg Hunt in our back garden and on WP668. The Associate Easter Bunny wrote a very difficult set of riddles for the adults to find the Gold and Silver Eggs – one of the clues was on Twitter! Jessica, Matthew, Paul, and John all helped – as did our house guest Thoko Miya from South Africa. John cooked Maqluba (chicken and rice “upside down” from Jordan) which was much appreciated!

Jessica and Matthew and Paul - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9855

John and Larissa Shapiro and Maqluba - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9926

Paul and kids - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9933

Gold egg found - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9911

Silver Egg

    • I am a beautiful-bold building block,
    • a 1-to-2 ton ballerina queen.
    • My reach spreads from Iskanderia to
    • where Toko lives (though there are fewer of
    • my ances-sisters bellowing than lived
    • there free when Ibn Batuta roved from
    • the Cape to Cairo and Mongol Guangzhou,
    • from shadowed Fez to wet-and-wild Mosul.)
    • I’m sunning myself in the shade of yolks
    • that hold their albumen inside their skins,
    • that parents feed their dogs for YouTube lulz,
    • and babies cry-smile when first they taste them.
    • So far I’ve led you on a lumbering chase
    • Msr, AsSeen, Arak — where is my place?

(the Silver Egg was hidden in the dirt, under a concrete hippo, under a lemon tree)

Gold Egg

    • Six unkind clues will guide
    • you briskly to my haunt,
    • in shadow where I hide.
    • Get hopping – it’s a jaunt!
    • You’ll climb among downed-trees
    • and wander through spike-leaves…
    • Hop quickly so Ethan won’t flaunt!

(the Gold Egg was on top of the light bulb, inside the glass cover of the overhead light fixture, on the porch)

Gold Egg – Clue 1

    • I’m surrounded by pot apparatus
    • But it’s not a medicinal grow.
    • You’ll not have to climb up to the attics
    • or wander wader-deep in the snow.
    • You’ll just have to walk
    • to a gate that unlocks
    • and find out where Paul’s clay does go.

Gold Egg – Clue 2

    • The next clue is online
    • you’ll practically titter
    • when you see the next poem
    • is posted on Twitter.

Gold Egg – Clue 3 – from Twitter

    • Upon a bright flower
    • You’ll find my small bower.
    • Not on a rosethorn,
    • or leaf-ling of corn
    • – under cactus and dragon I glower.

Gold Egg – Clue 4

    • Under Princess’s butt I was warming
    • My contents I hope you’ll find charming
    • But because she’s a cat
    • And upon me she sat
    • My message by now will be warming.

Gold Egg – Clue 5

    • You’ve lined up and squarely stood still
    • You’ve caught-on and gotten your fill
    • and now hear’s the treat:
    • an Easter-hunt feat
    • You’ll find me outside grey-bird’s sill.

Egg hunt - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9903

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Filed under Church, Home & Family

Guadalupe River High

Guadalupe River at Alma/Lelong - with Paul, San Jose CA 8 Jan 2017

The Guadalupe River in our San Jose backyard is supposed to rise very high tonight – according to NOAA (the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or Weather Service):

NOAA - Guadalupe River Above Almaden Expressway, 3:15 pm 10 Jan 2017

We and our Willow Glen neighbors along the river have been watching it with care. Twenty years ago, the other bank overflowed and water came up from the storm drains to wet our basements.  The Guadalupe River Flood Protection Project by the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the United States Army Corps of Engineers has been working against a repeat of that disaster.

On 9 February 2015, I posted “Guadalupe River – Happy to Be Wet” with pictures of how high and low our river can go.  I measure by the distance of the stair railing (about half way up the bank) relative to the water. Two days ago, the railing went almost entirely under – NOAA’s measurement was 7.94 feet.  Tonight, the river is predicted to rise to 9.6 feet.

Guadalupe River at Alma/Lelong, San Jose CA 8 Feb 2015
8 Feb 2015

Guadalupe River at Alma/Lelong, San Jose CA 29 Sep 2016
29 Sep 2016

Guadalupe River at Alma/Lelong, San Jose CA 8 Jan 2017
8 Jan 2017

Guadalupe River at Alma/Lelong, San Jose CA 8 Jan 2017
8 Jan 2017

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Images Copyright 2015-2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Filed under Home & Family, News & Reviews

Lincoln Avenue Road Diet, Pokemon Go

Willow Glen bike rack 30 July 2016

In the nearly twenty years my family has lived in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, California, we have enjoyed shopping and eating on The Avenue (Lincoln Avenue between Minnesota and Willow) several times each week. We often walk from our home near the Tamien CalTrain station to Lincoln and back – about 3 mile round trip. Recently, several of us have being playing Pokémon Go as we walk. My son Paul is our family expert and advisor on all things Pokémon.  The Lincoln Avenue area is particularly rich in pocket monsters and PokéStops!

On 28 June 2016, the City Council approved proceeding with the Road Diet (“Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project”).  Since then, there has been much road work and many changes on Lincoln Avenue. The 28 June 2016 City Council Synopsis for Agenda item 6.1:

6.1 Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project Report.
Recommendation: Accept the Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project Report, and support the
plan to pave and stripe Lincoln Avenue in the current pilot configuration, implement
minor traffic signal improvements at the Minnesota/Lincoln intersection, and traffic
calming improvements in adjacent neighborhoods. CEQA: Exempt, Section 15301(c),
Existing Facilities and Section 15304(h), Minor Alterations to Land, File No. PP16-063.
Council District 6. (Transportation)
The memorandum from Council Member Pierluigi Oliverio, dated June 27, 2016, was approved as follows:

  1. Accept traffic and sales tax reports provided by Staff.
  2. Accept Staff recommendation to make the current lane configuration
    permanent in July.
  3. Accept Staff recommendations for further improvements on neighboring streets verified by the Department of Transportation (DOT) data.
  4. In the event that monies for improvement are depleted, DOT Staff is
    welcome to fund improvements out of the District 6 Office Budget ending December 31, 2016.
  5. Return to Council with an amendment to the existing ordinance that bans bicycle riding on downtown sidewalks, with an exemption for pre-teens and propose expanding the area to include Lincoln Avenue between Coe and Minnesota. This would minimize conflicts with pedestrians, strollers and canine companions now that bike lanes are permanent.

Changes I have noticed since June on Lincoln Avenue include:

  • Addition of “bump out” eating area for Tac-oh! restaurant (1384 Lincoln Ave. at Minnesota) – creating a seating area in what used to be parking spaces.
  • Upgrade of street light at Lincoln / Minnesota.
  • Addition of “Willow Glen” branded racks – for bike parking.
  • Slurry seal over existing paving (not a full repaving), with new road markings such as cross walk lines, bike parking signs, and arrows in turn lanes.
  • Addition of small statues in the existing planter boxes.

Stop light upgrade at Lincoln and Minnesota, San Jose, CA, 12 July 2016

Painting Bike Parking Sign Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, 11 August 2016

New Sculpture, Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, August 2016

Most of these are welcome changes; however, the five categories of Lincoln Avenue problems associated with the Willow Glen Road Diet, described in my 17 June 2016 post largely remain unresolved:

  1. Traffic safety and speed
  2. Too Little Parking
  3. Bicycles on the sidewalk
  4. Delivery Trucks parking in the turn lane
  5. Community Trust

Parking continues to be the biggest concern to local businesses (and the problem least addressed) – parking both for private cars and for trucks trying to make deliveries.

Delivery truck in turn lane, Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, 23 August 2016

I am delighted that so many local treasures – like the US Mail Delivery Mural, Chase Bank mosaics, and the Pizza My Heart surfboards – are now Pokémon Go landmarks.  The PokéStops help players notice some of the charming details of our neighborhood downtown and make walking The Avenue even more fun. I still wish that we could resolve some of the persistent larger problems during this time of cosmetic enhancement.

US Mail Delivery Mural, Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, 23 August 2016

UntChase Bank mosaic, Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, 23 August 2016tled

Pizza My Heart Surfboards, Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, 23 August 2016

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Filed under Home & Family, News & Reviews, Politics

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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Filed under Home & Family, Mentoring Standard

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


Filed under Home & Family, News & Reviews

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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Filed under News & Reviews, Politics