RSSArchive for April, 2012

The wanderers of Mill Avenue

The wanderers of Mill Avenue


Since the U.S. economy has been spiraling, the government has tried to reduce homelessness.

Between 2009 and 2011, programs like The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program have reduced homelessness by 1 percent.

But, that still leaves more than 600,000 people in the United States without homes. More than 200,000 of those people live without shelter.

There is a misconception that all homeless people are alcoholics, drug addicts or just plain lazy. Many times, this is not the case.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, an estimated 23 percent of the homeless are veterans.

It is also estimated there are 25,000 homeless youths in the United States. Many are either runaways or have been forced onto the street because their families lost their homes.

Often people assume that homelessness is caused by hardship, mental illness or drug addictions. This many times is the case, but less often than one might think. Many insist they enjoy being on the street, saying a routine way of life is not living.

Some people claim to choose a life of homelessness in order to travel and meet new people. Jeremy Schmidt, commonly known as Rounder, is one of those individuals.

Schmidt, 33, received his nickname from his friend Levi after years of showing up to rainbow gatherings with a new “hippie chick” attached to his arm every time.

“I have the things I need to survive,” Schmidt said, pointing to his backpack. “The things people own give them a false sense of security.”

Schmidt has been homeless on and off for 16 years and says he will never change. He used to have a home and a job but was fired because of a 13-year-old felony.

His choices and lifestyle have caused him to lose touch with his family, including a 9-year-old daughter.

Schmidt sits on Tempe’s Mill Avenue between My Big Fat Greek Restaurant and the Valley Arts Theatre day after day. He has a guitar and holds a sign asking for alcohol.

Throughout the day he moves from sun to shade to prevent his pit bull, Hazel, from overheating.

He is one of many who live on Mill Avenue, each having a different story.

Many Mill Avenue transients are part of a younger generation. According to the Arizona Department of Education, youth homelessness in the state has grown more than 80 percent in the past five years.

“Many of the teens say that homelessness was a choice for them, when in reality there was something behind it,” Jana Smith, program manager for Tumbleweed’s Tempe Youth Resource Center, said. “It was better than the alternative choice.”

Cory Maldonado, 22, of Salem, Ore., has been homeless for eight years. His mother died a few years before his father was sent to prison.

He says he chose his way of life. “It kept me away from foster care.”

Traveling kids tend to look at their situation as a way to experience life and to see different cities, Smith said. The appeal of the open road and a sense of adventure attracts them to this way of life.

“I hate being called homeless or a transient,” Maldonado said. “It’s demeaning and generalizes people.”

Looking at his girlfriend, he said, “We’re wanderers. The earth is our home.”

Maldonado and Jessica Powell, 18, have been dating for five months. They met five years ago in Washington.

They plan on leaving Tempe soon with just the clothes on their backs, their dog, guitar and a sewing kit.

“Stuff gets stolen. It’s just stuff,” he said. “I’d be more upset if my dog went missing.”

People, or wanderers, come from all over the country. Mill Avenue is a hot spot because of all the tourists, businesses and easy access to food.

“I can make $30 a night if I try,” Schmidt said.

“I hold a sign just to fit the stereotype,” he added. “They say we’re a bunch of drunks and drug addicts, why not play off of it?”

Maldonado agreed. “If you go hungry, you’re stupid.”

Another homeless man on Mill Avenue, Mike Nissen, prefers to be called Skum. He said there have been places where people just give him food.

“People in L.A. are a lot friendlier, all the yuppies live here,” he said. “Still, it’s easy to get food.”

Food sources include places like the Potter House, the Salvation Army and Tempe Beach Park. Tumbleweed’s Tempe location also serve a warm meal each day around noon.

“I don’t mind the center,” Maldonado said, making Powell laugh. “You can eat as much as you want as long as there’s enough for everyone. They even have pastries.”

The Tempe center provided more than 2,700 meals to homeless youths ages 12-25 in 2010, according to Tumbleweed’s 2010 annual report.

People who live or have businesses on Mill Avenue don’t always approve of the services that organizations such as Tumbleweed provide. They say such programs enable the homeless to continue their free-ride attitude and lifestyle.

Megan Schneckloth, a bartender from Blondies Sports Bar and Grill, said she’s heard complaints from customers.

“I even had this one guy pretend he was deaf just for a free beer,” she said.

Other businesses say they lock their bathrooms to ensure that the homeless won’t take sponge baths in the sink. Some owners have gone as far as having the city of Tempe remove benches from in front of their stores, hoping to attract fewer homeless.

The Metro light rail makes it easy for transients to travel from Phoenix to Tempe. Many don’t pay.

“We treat them like any other person. We kick them off and if they want to ride they have to buy a pass,” Gilberto Roble, a member of light rail security, said. “But I can say it definitely doesn’t appeal to other riders.”

Traveling folk don’t like staying in one place too long. They like that they can pick up and go whenever they get bored.

On May 3, Schmidt will be done with probation and plans to hitchhike back home to Kalispell, Mont., to visit family.

Afterward, he hopes to meet up with the Rainbow Family of Light, a group that holds rainbow gatherings every year during the first week of July. The event is held in a different national park every time.

This year, they plan to meet in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. The group will set up camp and experience life in a sharing, loving and respectful manner.


Jeremy Schmidt, known as Rounder, is a familiar sight on Mill Avenue in Tempe. Photo by Ana Ramirez.


“You have to go, you just can’t explain it,” Schmidt said. “Traveling the country shows you that there are so many good people out there.”

Swashbuckling fun awaits viewers in 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits'

Swashbuckling fun awaits viewers in ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’

“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” delivers a strong message of perseverance and teamwork.

The movie opens in London in 1837. The sentiment of disgust for pirates is made clear by Queen Victoria Regina. Happiness, it seems, will not be hers until all pirates are extinct.

The audience is introduced to the pirate crew as they debate the best part of being a pirate. The Pirate Captain, voiced by Hugh Grant, settles the argument by declaring the best part about being a pirate is “Ham Nite.”

The Pirate Captain begins to discuss the upcoming and illustrious Pirate of the Year award. In previous years, he has lost the competition but is certain that will change this year.

The pirates are evaluated for the award based mainly off the amount of booty they have pillaged, but other aspects are taken into consideration, including their beards, their ability to roar and the bounty on them set by the Queen.

The Pirate Captain is determined to win despite the condescending attitudes of competing pirates and a lack of ships to plunder.

After numerous failed plundering attempts, the Pirate Captain is about to give up on piracy. After a motivational speech given to him by his first mate, he attempts to pillage one more ship.  However, instead of finding treasure he meets Charles Darwin.

The Pirate Captain nearly forces Darwin to walk the plank, but he saves himself at the last minute by commenting on the ship’s beloved parrot Polly. He notices something special about her and promises untold riches if they enter her into the Scientist of the Year contest in London.

Through their encounters with Darwin and Queen Victoria, the pirates learn that nothing is as it seems and that through teamwork and loyalty, dreams can be accomplished.

Although this movie is geared toward children, there are certain elements that may cause parents of younger children some concern. For example, a pirate competing for the Pirate of the Year award named Cutlass Liz, voiced by Salma Hayek, was portrayed in a very sexual manner, including a tight, low-cut shirt that showed off more of her body than it covered. As she entered the bar, a group of pirates call her a trollop. Not the best thoughts to be putting in the minds of children.

However, most college students would not mind the brief sexuality and the humor would be appreciated.  Viewers of all ages will find it hard to not cheer for the Pirate Captain and his crew throughout their adventures.

Overall, the theme of the movie was positive and fun despite a few scenes that may be inappropriate for younger children. It is rated PG and was released into theaters April 27.

Grade: B

© 2012 Sony Pictures Digital Inc.


Earth Day 2012 Tucson


Some pilots replacing paper maps with iPads

Some pilots replacing paper maps with iPads


With fuel prices escalating, individuals and corporations are looking for new ways to save a buck.

Many pilots and student-pilots are replacing traditional paper maps with iPads, saving money on gas and books.

In August 2010, United Continental Holdings, Inc. announced it would convert to paperless flight bags and provide 11,000 iPads to its pilots. Since then, other airlines including American, US Airways, Alaska and UPS have started using them.

Pilots must take a variety of maps with them, depending on their destination. The flight bag weighs about 40 pounds.

The 1.5-pound iPad Electronic Flight Bag replaces operating manuals, flight checklists, logbooks, navigation charts and weather information. It’s estimated it will save $1.2 million worth of fuel per year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3,208 metric tons.

“You can take all of that and condense it down to an iPad,” said Boris Vasiley, a flight instructor at Arizona Flight Training Center. “It’s cheaper to download maps too.”

United predicts it will save 326,000 gallons of jet fuel and 16 million sheets of paper a year.

It is necessary for pilots to replace their maps every three to four months. It can become a safety issue if they aren’t constantly aware of any changes being made in airports or air spaces.

Pilots need about 40 maps to cover just the United States, Vasiley said.

The iPads update the most recent information automatically, saving time and worry.

“It’s a very handy tool to have all your maps and information with you at once,” Vasiley said. “You can download all the information you need.”

Bob Bingham, who received his private pilot’s license last September, said it would have been nice to have electronic versions of the expensive books.

“The instructor I had was old-fashioned and tried to encourage me to learn the traditional way,” Bingham said.

However, Bingham said he’s glad he learned how to fly using paper maps and charts, and always brings them when he flies.

“If technology went out, I’d still know how to fly,” he said.

Some pilots see a downside to the Electronic Flight Bag.

James Raynovic, an instructor at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, said the paper format remains his first choice.

“In my own personal experience as a private pilot, I still keep a paper sectional on hand due to the fact that the batteries don’t go dead,” he said. “I think the iPad is a great tool for aviation to supplement what we have but not a total substitute for paper format.”

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the EFB but has yet to approve the use of the iPad’s GPS function.

Tom Wooden, a private pilot for 26 years, said part of the reason is that the iPad has just one GPS sensor. It give pilots a general idea of where they are but can’t pinpoint the exact location.

Instructors also say new pilots must learn how to fly before relying on the iPad’s GPS.

“I would never allow a primary student to utilize a ‘crutch’ such as the iPad for navigation,” Wooden said. “It would be as irresponsible as teaching basic math skills to an elementary student using a calculator.”

Vasiley said young pilots still need to learn the basics using traditional methods, but the iPad is useful for some aspects.

“It’s a good study tool and ground prep,” he said.

Photo illustration by Ana Ramirez

SOFTBALL: Aztecs getting back to 'normal'

SOFTBALL: Aztecs getting back to ‘normal’



The Pima Community College softball team knows a thing or two about sweeping their opponents in doubleheaders.

The Aztecs have accomplished the feat in 14 of 21 opportunities this season.

That’s why it may have been a little surprising when the Aztecs recently split with two teams they had kicked around earlier in the year.

Pima split with Chandler-Gilbert Community College on April 3, then also took one of two against South Mountain Community College on April 7.

As a result, PCC slipped to No. 12 in the latest NJCAA Division I poll.

Head coach Armando Quiroz wasn’t concerned about the losses, though.

“That’s just part of any season,” he said. “We’re right where we want to be. Our expectations are high as always, and we’re picking up the intensity in practice.”

Not surprisingly, Quiroz was happy to see the squad break out the brooms against Arizona Western College on April 10.

“It felt good to get the sweep against Western,” he said. “For us, sweeping our opponents is what we consider normal. There’s little middle ground for us – we want to win both every time.”

Sophomore Mari Contreras pitched Pima to victory in game one against the Matadors.

Sophomores Nicole Rascon and Jessica Sipe had big days at the plate, along with freshmen Aubre Carpenter, Alejandra Ortiz and Shawna Comeaux.

Freshman Yvette Alvarez also starred, ending game two with a grand slam.

Pima followed up by taking two 10-1 decisions against GateWay Community College on April 17.

The Aztecs now stand at 44-11 on the season, including a 34-8 conference mark.

On April 24, PCC will get a chance to avenge something that’s even more rare for them – having an opponent sweep them.

Yavapai College will come to town that day as one of just two teams to have turned the trick against the Aztecs this season.

Quiroz said his team welcomes the challenge against the No. 3 Roughriders.

“Anytime you can play a great squad like Yavapai, that’s what you want for your program,” he said. “They have quite a talented team. We’re looking forward to it.”


By Larry Gaurano

Odu leaps and bounds ahead

Odu leaps and bounds ahead



The future looks bright for Pima Community College sophomore track and field star Alice Odu.

With nationally recognized long and triple jump abilities and a contagious personality, Odu is a shoe-in for the outdoor national championships.


“She’s a great person,” head coach Greg Wenneborg said. “The second you meet her, you like her.”


Previously a basketball player, Odu has been involved in track and field since the seventh grade. She continues to put unparalleled efforts into bettering her abilities.

“I’m just happy that a young lady like Alice, after working so hard, is seeing results,” Wenneborg said.

Even though she qualified for nationals on March 10 with a triple jump distance of 38-10 1/4, she isn’t slowing down.


A typical practice for Odu begins at 3:30 p.m. and doesn’t end until 7:30 p.m. Highlights include stretching, 70 sit-ups, 45 push-ups, 450 calf-raises, lots of running, an hour of jumping drills and a trip to the weight room.


She spends most of her time in the weight room doing squats. Since her freshman year, Odu has improved from being able to squat 135 pounds to squatting 265.


“During practice she always has a smile on her face unless she is running 250-meter repeats,” assistant coach Chad Harrison jokingly said. “Alice is a great kid. One that I enjoy coaching.”


It has become a post-competition tradition for Odu and Harrison to share a bag of beef jerky and talk about her jumps, how well she did and where she can improve.

Odu hopes to use her success at Pima, both in track and in the classroom, to transfer somewhere that will help her achieve her goal of becoming a pediatric nurse. She also hopes to move out of Tucson.

“I like Tucson and all my family lives in Tucson, but I would like to move to Dallas, Texas,” she said.

Odu is currently ranked 10th all-time in the long jump and fourth in the triple jump at Pima.

“I will miss her when she’s gone,” Harrison said. “She has done wonders for our track program.”

In her spare time, Odu enjoys reading, listening to R&B music and dancing.

“Well, I’m African, so I’m really good at African dance,” Odu said.

Photo by Leftrick Herd

Padres Triple-A players eager to learn

Padres Triple-A players eager to learn



Tucson Padres players say they are looking forward to the year and hope to improve on last season’s 65-79 record.

The San Diego Padres’ triple-A affiliate kicked off its 2012 season on April 5 in Tucson’s Kino Sports Complex.

“I’m glad to make the jump to triple-A,” outfielder Sawyer Carroll said. “It seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun and I think we’ll be really good.”

There are lots of new faces on the Padres squad, but many are familiar with each other because they played together last year on the San Diego Padres’ double-A affiliate, the San Antonio Missions.

The Tucson team ended its first 2012 home series with a 1-5 record.

“I’m hoping that I can learn and build off of spring training,” starting pitcher Joe Wieland said. “That was my first big league camp.”

Tucson was not the original destination for the triple-A affiliate.

Originally known as the Portland Beavers, the team was forced out of Oregon in 2010 when its facility was converted into a soccer stadium.

San Diego Padres owner Jeff Moorad purchased the team with the intent of moving it to Escondido, Calif., which is located about 30 miles from San Diego.

Moorad chose Tucson as an interim location while the organization waited on funding to build an Escondido stadium.

Tucson’s Kino facility was available, after two Major League Baseball spring training squads and the triple-A Sidewinders left town.

However, the big league Padres may not receive funds to build the Escondido stadium. Last July, the California legislature passed a budget that eliminated redevelopment agencies.

The move denied Escondido the necessary public funds to build a stadium. The city had already spent $350,000 on preparatory environmental studies.

With the team’s location in limbo, cities outside of California have expressed interest. El Paso, especially, is making a strong push.

Tucson will host through the 2012 season, but it seems clear that fans must show more support if they want to keep the team.

Last season the Tucson Padres had the worst Pacific Coast League attendance, averaging about 3,410 people. The league leader was Round Rock, Texas, with 8,500.

Approximately 6,400 people attended the Tucson Padres home opener in 2011. This year’s opener drew 5,681.

For additional information on the Tucson Padres, including game schedules, upcoming promotions and ticket purchases, visit the team home page at


Photo by Mylo Erickson

ATHLETIC VOICE: Happy birthday, Title IX

ATHLETIC VOICE: Happy birthday, Title IX



College athletics will celebrate a seminal moment on June 23, when Title IX marks its 40th year.

Title IX is primarily known as the law that requires equality between men’s and women’s athletic programs on the college level. It didn’t start that way, though.

The landmark legislation’s authors drafted it to combat gender bias in public employment practices. Gender wasn’t addressed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, though Title IX’s early proponents drew inspiration from that law’s language.

Title IX states:“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

There’s no mention of sports, but the law was soon applied to college athletics.

As a result, schools must offer sports to each gender proportionate to student enrollment. In practice, that often means a roughly equal number of sports for men and women.

For example, Pima Community College offers eight sports for each gender.

The sheer number of women participating in college athletics has exploded, thanks to Title IX.

The number of females playing college sports jumped from about 30,000 in 1971-72 to almost 187,000 in 2009-10.

Title IX has detractors. They say it has caused numerous men’s programs to disband, as schools are forced to meet what some call unrealistic and unfair quotas.

While it’s true that some schools have dropped men’s programs, overall male participation in the same period has grown from approximately 170,000 to about 250,000.

Ironically, football and men’s basketball are the more likely culprits for men’s programs being cut, especially at the highest level of the NCAA.

Larger universities dedicate the lion’s share of their budgets to those two sports, but are still required by law to field women’s teams.

So instead of having a wrestling team or a men’s cross-country squad, for example, a university can still be in compliance by giving those extra funds to its two glamour sports, as long as it maintains its requisite number of women’s programs.

That’s what often happens. Women’s sports programs aren’t to blame for that.

Ultimately, the blame lies with people like me – fans who help fuel the American fascination with college football and men’s basketball.

Nevertheless, I can still see what’s right. That’s a level playing field for all.

Spring Training: In late 1980s Pima pursued MLB teams

Spring Training: In late 1980s Pima pursued MLB teams



In the late 1980s, Pima Community College found itself in a bidding war to become a Major League Baseball spring training site.

If the plan had passed, it would have added practice fields, batting cages and clubhouse facilities.

The project was going to be split between downtown Tucson and West Campus. The main stadium would have been downtown, while West Campus would have hosted minor league spring training.

In 1987, Acuna Coffeen Landscape Architects conducted a study of the proposed sites. The study was revised and submitted to the City of Tucson Parks and Recreation Department in 1988.

The company determined that West Campus land was suitable for tournament play. However, the downtown land around Interstate 10 and Congress was deemed unsuitable.

With that, talks began to circulate of building a hotel near West Campus to serve as housing for ballplayers. There was also talk of dormitories for student-athletes, since Pima was one of the few Arizona community colleges that did not provide student housing. It still doesn’t.

When the Colorado Rockies replaced the Cleveland Indians at Tucson’s Hi Corbett Field in 1993, Pima’s hopes of baseball field expansions faded.

Hopes resurfaced when the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers talked about moving their spring training camps to Arizona.

However, during that time the fields at West Campus were in bad condition and were being reseeded, which forced the baseball teams to practice at Reid Park and Santa Rita High School.

Pima felt it could offer education as an incentive for professional athletes who routinely face the prospect of career-ending injuries or non-renewed contracts.

College officials said PCC could provide associate degrees, plus English as a Second Language programs for the numerous players arriving from countries such as Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

During this time, Pima seemed to be in the running for a chance to take advantage of baseball-generated revenue.

But the plan never came to pass, as baseball teams relocated their spring training and minor league affiliates to locations outside of Tucson.

GOLF: Women improve scores

GOLF: Women improve scores



The Pima Community College women’s golf played in its sixth tournament of the year on April 9-10, yet again without enough players to establish a team score.

They played at the par-72 Dobson Ranch Golf Course in Mesa in a tournament hosted by Mesa Community College.

Freshman Abriana Romero had the best first-day score for Pima, shooting a 98. Sophomore Alondra Olivas finished the day with a 99.

Freshman Shelby Empens shot 100. She cut 12 strokes from her score on the back nine.

The women improved their second-day stroke totals.

Olivas shot an 89, with a season-best 39 on the back nine.

“I was super excited for her,” head coach Bill Nicol said.

Romero shot a 91 and Empens finished with a 92.

Romero, who has the highest stroke average for the Pima women, still has a chance to advance to nationals by claiming the conference’s fifth individual spot.

Pima will play in its seventh and final tournament of the year on April 23-24. Scottsdale Community College will host the tournament at Hillcrest Golf Course in Sun City West.

Nicol has never been to this course, but noticed lots of water hazards after an online check.

“It’s kind of like playing a desert course, but you can’t get your ball back,” he said.

Nicol has enjoyed working with his players this season, and said the women often receive compliments.

“One person told me that they’re the three nicest people in the league,” Nicol said. “That’s always great to hear.”



On Deck:

April 23-24: @ Scottsdale Community College, Sun City West, Hillcrest Golf Course, 11 a.m.


Photo by Mylo Erickson

GOLF: Men finish sixth in final meet



The Pima Community College men’s golf team finished its final tournament of the season with a two-day total of 619, which was good enough for sixth place.

Mesa Community College hosted the tournament at Longbow Golf Course in Mesa.

On the first day of the tournament, Pima ended in sixth place with a total of 309.

The team was two strokes behind fifth-place Paradise Valley Community College and seven strokes behind fourth-place Mesa.

Sophomore Adam Ortiz had the best score the Aztecs on the first day, shooting one over par with a 72, which was good enough to tie for second place individually.

On the first day, five players were tied for the lead with 71. Six players were tied for second with 72.

The next best for the Aztecs was freshman Landyn Lewis, who shot six over par with a 77 for his first-day score.

On the second day of the tournament, Pima finished with a total of 308. That was one stroke better than its first day.

Lewis had the best second-day score for the Aztecs, shooting three over par with a 74. He ended with a two day total of 151.

Ortiz shot four over par with a 75 for the second day. He ended with the best overall score for Pima with a two-day total of 147.

No Pima player managed to crack the top 10 individually.

The tournament finished off the regular season tournaments for Pima.

The Aztecs will be heading to Sidewinder Golf Course in Gold Canyon, Ariz., on April 26-29 to compete in the NJCAA Region 1 tournament.

TRACK & FIELD: 25 Aztecs qualify for nationals



The Pima Community College track and field team ended its regular season with 13 women and 12 men qualified for nationals.

The Aztecs participated in the third and final ACCAC conference meet of the outdoor season at Mesa Community College on April 13.

In the five-way dual meet, the women finished the season with a record of 12-3.

Freshman Kami Humphrey qualified for nationals in the high jump with a leap of 5 feet, 3 inches.

Freshman Jania Featherstone took first place in the event with a jump of 5-7. Sophomore Anaiz Zamorano earned second place in the 400 hurdles with a time of 1 minute, 04.57 seconds.

The men finished the season with a record of 8-7.

Sophomore Antonio Jeter took second place in the triple jump with a leap of 47-6. Sophomore Justin Chambers finished second in the long jump with a jump of 22-5.

While competing in the Mesa Community College Classic Invitational on April 6, Pima athletes hit four more national qualifying marks and racked up two first-place finishes.

Freshman Lucas Ruiz finished first in the 1500-meter race with a time of 3:57.53. The team of freshmen Alfonso Avitla, Lance Ross, Patrick Yonas and sophomore Demitri Hayes took first in the 4×100 relay with a time of 42.08.

On April 6, while competing in the Mesa Community College Classic Invitational, Pima athletes hit four more national qualifying marks and racked up two first-place finishes.

Freshman Lucas Ruiz finished first in the 1500-meter race with a time of 3 minutes, 57.53 seconds. The team of freshmen Alfonso Avitla, Lance Ross, Patrick Yonas and sophomore Demitri Hayes took first in the 4×100 relay with a time of 42.08.

For the women, freshmen Heidi Lopez, Kelsey Montano and Jamie Shrader finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 1500-meter race, earning their qualifying marks in the event.

The Aztecs will travel to Cerritos, Calif., for the Beach Invitational on April 20 and 21.

Listen to your body: slow down

Listen to your body: slow down


I’ve been a full-time student since I graduated from high school, at times simultaneously working full time. Unfortunately, now I can’t take on as much.

A couple of months ago, I suffered a panic attack. It happened because I put my body through lots of stress, for a long time.

I lacked sleep, worked 50 hours a week, skipped meals, went to school full time and never listened to my body trying to tell me it was exhausted.

By the time I decided to listen, the damage had been done.

I started having episodes of anxiety attacks. I wasn’t the same anymore. I wasn’t able to take on everything and anything.

I used to be able to do so much and now even doing a little is hard.

It’s hard to focus, to pay attention. The worst part is that anxiety can bring other complications into my life if I’m not careful.

I should have listened to my body. I was too busy trying to finish school quickly while working, but it affected my health. If I could press rewind, I would.

It is great to go to school but don’t take on too much if you can’t handle it.

If you have to work, take on only the hours you need. Taking on too much is not worth the cost of your health.

Finish school at your pace and enjoy the experience. Exercise, eat right, sleep your full eight hours and be nice to yourself. There is no need to put your body through extra stress—especially if it’s stress that you can control.

Avila exercises, takes long walks in the park and reads when she wants to take a break from the world.

CRACKING WISE: A gamer’s lament

CRACKING WISE: A gamer’s lament


During one of our “dates,” in which we spend time together by playing different video games in different spots of the same room, my girlfriend mentioned something staggering:

“I’ve played this game for 90 hours.”

That’s 90 hours on my Xbox over the past two months. She’s spent countless hours playing the same game on a computer at her own home.

That made me curious about my own gameplay statistics.

Spoiler alert: They’re terrifying.

I’ve played nearly a day’s worth of time in “Civilization V.” I’ve spent 86 hours in “Fallout: New Vegas.” The big kicker is “Team Fortress 2.” In more than three years of ownership, I’ve played nearly 850 hours. A month and change.

This doesn’t take into account the time I’ve spent playing Xbox. I hesitate to look into my “Halo 3” and “Halo Reach” statistics, because I may throw up in disgust.

In the story of my life, an entire volume’s worth of space would be spent detailing my video gaming habits (An excerpt: “He was an awful sniper, constant sneak and unrepentant power-up thief: may God have mercy on his soul.”)

I’ve always struggled against self-labeling as a “gamer” alongside other such titles as “journalist,” “funny guy” and “perpetual community college student.”

But I think this is my limit.

I’ve had trouble quitting games at times, to the point where one could claim I was addicted. It’s a charge I’m not sure I could deny.

Based on the numbers above, I’ve spent five weeks of my life at my PC, gaming. I could have driven from San Francisco to New York City nearly seven times.

So I’m done — for a little while, at least.

No more Xbox or Nintendo DS or iPod gaming. Not for two weeks, from the publication of this column to the publication of our next issue.

We’ll see how long I can make it without caving in and playing something like “NBA Jam” or “Angry Birds.”

I’m guessing I’ll last at least 10 days before I relapse, but who knows? Maybe I’ll actually get something worthwhile done during those days without a controller.

 If you bet on how long he’ll last, Mendez hopes you will let him in on the action. He isn’t quitting gambling, after all. 

Rich guy joke not funny

Rich guy joke not funny

 Editor’s note: For those unfamiliar with the Aristocrat joke, “Wikipedia” describes it as a secret-handshake among comedians. Versions of the joke center on themes such as child abuse, incest, rape, murder and violence. The goal of the joke is to infringe on social norms.


A rich guy goes into a talent agency and says to the agent, “I’ve got a hell of an act for you.”


 “Lemme hear it,” says the talent agent.


 “So me and my cronies come out on the stage and start demanding that the political system stop trying to regulate us. Then, with our powers of lobbying, we slowly flay away all regulations constraining us until there’s nothing but a skeleton of government left.


 “Meanwhile, our political friends in the audience start destroying or preventing any and all things that might be a threat to us, such as public health care, public education and even aid to the poor!

“That way, we’re the only game in town. It’ll be awesome, like Gallagher but with fundamental human rights rather than plain ol’ watermelons!”


The talent agent looks horrified, but the rich guy continues.

“But it gets better! Then we take the politicians from the audience and rip out all their teeth. We cut ‘em up and make them ineffectual, so they can do nothing as we spread our tendrils across the audience! The screaming is always the best part.

“We will dominate them, creating a world shaped in our corporate image, smothering their hearts in a plutocratic world, the political system a desperate husk we can puppeteer as we please.

“We’ve made the strings of gold, and we’ve got a little puppet dance-number planned, called ‘A Boot Stamping on A Human Face Forever’

“None shall resist, as those who do will be called socialists and ground down to pink sludge even as we create fascism in our wake. They will know us as gods, and they will tremble.”

“That’s horrible!” says the talent agent, reaching for his revolver. “What do you call it?”

The rich guy just laughs maniacally and screams at the top of his lungs, “The Aristorcrats!”

Johnson thinks this is probably the vilest incarnation of the Aristocrats joke.