La Placita Village

La Placita Village

A perfect winter afternoon in downtown Tucson. This is a busy time of year in my hometown…The world-famous Gem and Mineral Show, the Tucson Rodeo, Accenture Match Play and spring baseball. No wonder I love it here. And there are always the colors (like this photo) and the tastes (the best Sonoran Mexican food) that treat our senses year ’round.

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February 16, 2013 · 9:20 PM

RIP Oscar Niemeyer

The planned trip to Rio excited me; I looked forward to a week-long Amazon cruise. The capital city of Brazil lay somewhere between the two major objects of my South American excursion. So, with little preparation and even less excitement, I scheduled four days in Brasilia, the planned city that rose phoenix-like from the grasslands of central Brazil. This UNESCO World Heritage site so impressed me that I wrote about it for the online travel blog InTheKnowTraveler, (ITKT) without even a footnote about Rio de Janeiro or the Amazon River.

I categorized my visit to Brasilia as The Serendipity of Travel, I phrase I often use when, in my frequent travels, something totally unexpected surprises and delights me. Such was the case with Oscar Niemeyer’s work of art. In my ITKT article, I labeled Brasilia oxymoronically as “unique in its uniformity.”

Most capital cities of the world grew up around a core of historic buildings with picturesque neighborhoods fingering out from their centers. Not so for Brasilia. Niemeyer designed almost the entirety of its public buildings. He did this in an architectural style known as “brutalism.” Whereas this style might aptly fit its name, say in 1960’s East Berlin, there is a magic to Brasilia’s buildings: lines softened by curves, constant sunshine setting concrete aglow, the rhythm and color of South America all coming together to honor Niemeyer.

Niemeyer, who died this past week at the age of 104, was himself an oxymoron, a rabid communist – and atheist – who designed churches that honored God in their breathtaking splendor. Witness the Metropolitan Cathedral, a teepee-like structure whose ribs of sparkling white concrete reach to the sky. It could be nothing less than a house of worship.
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Like most ardent travelers, I have a bucket list. I also have a “Should’ve been on the bucket list but wasn’t” list. And yes, Brasilia is there. Thank you Oscar Niemeyer. You might’ve called yourself a brutalist communist. I call you a spirited, perhaps even playful, individualist.

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The Positive Side of Negative

Several months ago, I began having back problems. I had to reduce, almost eliminate, my normal extensive exercise schedule. I just couldn’t do what I’d always done. Healing has been maddeningly slow. I finally decided that I’d have to switch gears and thus ventured into the world of yoga. I’m in love.

I’ve found poses and stretches helpful in relieving some of the pain, but the changes in my mental state have proved most important. There is a peace in those sixty or ninety minutes that stays for hours, maybe days. I find myself returning – in my mind – to the quiet place that I experience in the yoga studio. 

I grant myself permission to be less than perfect, I encourage myself to make wise choices every day, and to make kindness a priority. I have a long journey ahead to explore different aspects of yoga practices, but it is a journey I very much look forward to.

The door to the gym, weight machines and jogs may have closed, but a new one that leads into a light-filled room has opened.

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The Democratic National Convention

I was fortunate enough to volunteer at the credentialing office at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this past week. A great experience for any American, no matter your politics. Charlotte put on quite a show-a clean, friendly, transportation savvy city. I don’t know how there were any police (or any black SUVs) left anywhere else in the United States. Of necessity, of course, security was tight, but patience was the order of the day. 

The energy at the DNC itself was amazing. So many people coming together. I was impressed with the intelligence, forethought and empathy of all the speakers. And a special treat for those of us from Southern Arizona was Gabby Giffords leading the Pledge of Allegiance. I volunteered for a week. Many others had been there months, with very little sleep those last few days.

Many supporters traveled hundreds – thousands – of miles to attend the final night. Then the stadium had to be canceled and 70,000 disappointed people smiled through their tears and kept vigil with their friends and neighbors. I am grateful that I was able to attend the event in the arena. It was a memory-maker of a week from the people to the food (I learned about how many different Carolina bbq’s there are!) to the political system of our country. We all gripe about politicians and the opposing party. But, let’s not ever forget how very, very fortunate we are to have that system AND we able to complain about about anyone, anytime. 

In my volunteer duty, I met a man from Zimbabwe. Believe me, he feels blessed to live in America now. Be grateful, register to vote and VOTE!Image

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My “Classics” Bookshelf

In the September issue of The Writer, staff writers and contributing editors expounded on what, to each of them, are must-read classics. I decided to compile my own list. Here it is, not by any means exclusive:

1.  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. A defining piece of literature for the boomer generation. I lost my naiveté   to this book.

2. For Whom The Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway. That man can tell a story!

3. A Bright Shining Lie, by Neil Sheehan. As if the horrors of the Vietnam War weren’t enough, Sheehan adds the political shenanigans that did nothing except up the casualties.

4. As They Were, by MFK Fisher. Pack your bags. Fisher is the reader’s five senses. It’s like a trip to Provence without TSA.

5. Anything by P,G. Wodehouse. Let’s face it. You gotta laugh at the exaggerated antics of Bertie Wooster, poster child of the British Idle Rich. This is my go-to reading when life overwhelms me.

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HIggs Boson

My greatest academic regret is that I never studied physics. Not in high school. Not in college. And certainly not in grad school. I doubt there are many of us business majors who have. As an adult, I came to realize that physics is the one subject which countless applications to the “real” world, the world we live in.

So, I was thrilled to read Paul Tipton (professor of physics at Yale) write about the exciting discovery of the new particle, Higgs. Not only did Dr. Tipton discuss the meaning of the Higgs boson is lay language – which helped me understand just how exciting it is – but, he focuses on the human effort it took to reach this triumph. It took a super-duper collider, scientists whose brain power should be measured in orders of magnitude greater than mine, and dedication, teamwork, and curiosity. Paul Tipton calls this discovery a global triumph. If we can work together so well here, why not always?

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OP-ED – The Original Blog

Long before the blogosphere and even longer before the internet, there were Op-Ed columns. You know, those wonderfully pithy opinion pieces, usually found near the end of the front section. I’ve been addicted to them for years, much as I have recently committed myself to reading certain blogs on a regular basis. 

A wise politician (Truman? T. Roosevelt?) once said – and I paraphrase here – that, in a democracy, everyone is entitled to their own politics, but not their own facts. Such is the beauty of the op-ed page. Sure, the opinions of the writer, whether about politics, religion, social issues, etc., are often expressed in colorful, witty, and even vulgar terms. But a good op-ed columnist makes clear what is fact.

Two pieces I read today are cases in point. Jonah Goldberg (a personal op-ed favorite) spewed mind-boggling statistics regarding the Libor scandal in England. The article itself was extremely interesting (recommended reading for EVERYONE), but it was his final paragraph that clearly brought home the consequences of this scandal and the all-too-numerous ones like it.

Mr. Goldberg writes: “The more inured we grow to such stories, the more we come to accept that acceptable behavior is simply whatever we can get away with.”

Think about it.

Tomorrow: OP-ED Part 2: Higgs boson. Wow!

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