Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Point of no return

We are really close to the point of no return. It turns out that I did not get the job with UMOS. That's fine, it's not a big blow to my ego. I wanted to work there because it was easier money than working at Seneca Foods. The downside is that it was less money. Now I'm forced to work where I can make more money. Oh, the agony! She hasn't been hired yet, but with an Associate degree and a BS, she should have no problem.

We Have Green Light

My recent proposal to Rio Grande Valley bloggers to help me create a roundtable panel to discuss issues and interview people in the RGV for a podcast has had a positive response. There are several of you on-board with the project, or at least expressed interest. I'm glad to have received such enthusiasm for the podcast. If you are an RGV blogger, a joint podcast would have the following benefits:
  • Better chance of getting interviews through collective influence. If you are looking to share your ideas, it is better to have several bloggers writing about it than having only one.
  • The information gathered from the podcast would provide all of us with content for our blogs. We could each ask the guest what interests us and then we could individually write our opinions prior to the release of the podcast. One caveat is that we would need to be nice to our guests to ensure that they return.
  • The podcast would raise the bar for blogging in the RGV. A joint podcast would allow us to discuss ideas prior to writing about them so that we are aware of other views in the RGV blogging community and can address them in our writing.
  • The podcast would help avoid local "media bias". I've had officials inform me how difficult it is to get press when your critics/opponents are related to the reporters in the paper or TV.
Overall, I think this project has great potential for RGV politics bloggers. I'll be working to acquire equipment, develop a plan, and firm up the plan in the coming months. I will be in touch with those of you who have expressed interest. If you would also like to be on-board, send me an email so that I can add you to my list. This way, you'll be kept abreast on the details of the project as they roll out. I'll be working up north for a while, but I'll keep working on the project in my spare time. Don't forget, I hope to have this off the ground by October. Projects require time and money. I've got plenty of the first, but not enough of the second. Upon returning, I should have a better ratio. If I can get broadband access, we may be able to do a couple test conferences ahead of my scheduled return for practice. We should get to know each other in conference first so that we can get a feel for how to interact with minimal confusion.
I do need some things from participants.
  • send me some topic ideas
  • send me some guest ideas
  • ask me questions
  • express any concerns
RGV Life Podcast

Time with the family

Today was a slow day for me. My daughter went to school. My wife is on her summer vacation. Our son still stays home. We watched a movie, made some phone calls to get an idea of our situation before we leave. We went to my in-laws for a barbecue. We enjoyed peace and freedom.
Today, being Memorial Day, the History Channel showed Band of Brothers. I love that series. You can't help getting choked up sometimes when you watch it. For me, it's almost like watching The Passion of the Christ. You know what happened, intellectually; but you don't connect with the brutal reality until you see it. The series is probably not as graphic as the real thing, but it's still a good reminder of the sacrifice our soldiers endure for their country. I, for one, am grateful to our soldiers for what they do. I also understand and admire their mindset in accomplishing their missions no matter what, whatever it may be. It is this level of focus and dedication that I admire in our soldiers. Although some may not understand why they choose to fight and even re-enlist, what matters is that our soldiers do understand. For that, I will always be humbled.
Let us thank our fallen heroes for preserving our freedom. Let us remember that they have paid the ultimate price for liberty so that we do not have to pay the ultimate price in fear and oppression.
RGV Life Podcast

Monday, May 29, 2006

Idea in the Works

I like to listen to other podcasts out there on the Internet. One of my favorites is TWiT, a podcast about technology hosted by Leo Laporte. If you are the geeky type who used to watch ZDTV, which later became TechTV, or you read tech magazines, you know who Leo Laporte is. He's one of my heroes. In any case, he does something that I've been thinking about doing for a while for the podcasts. TWiT has a panel of experts go over some of the latest developments in IT. Regular guests include John C. Dvorak, Patrick Norton, Chris DiBona, and Amber MacArthur. What makes this show so cool is that the panel is not usually in the same room or city. Many of the participants of the show are in on an internet teleconference. The call is recorded, edited, and posted on the web. This is a much better format for a podcast than having one person, me, talking to a computer screen.
This is along the same idea that I have for a SpinRGV podcast, to have a weekly roundtable of bloggers go over the events of the week on a teleconference. It would be held on the Saturdays when everybody has free minutes on their mobile phones. This would give me enough time to make edits and prepare it for posting on Sunday. The reason why free minutes is important is because each participant would have to call in to a conference phone number, dial in to a room number, and then go at it. On my end, I would join the conference, moderate, and record it through my Gizmo Project account. I'm really keen on Gizmo because they are free for PC to PC calls and 1 cent per minute to any phone in the U.S. I use my Gizmo service to make my website business calls. For the weekly teleconference, the software also comes with built-in call recording, allowing me to record the whole event. Something to keep in mind is that if you also use Gizmo and are on the teleconference, you too could record the call to post on your website.
One of the benefits of setting up a weekly roundtable of bloggers is that it would, in some way, bring the RGV blogging community a little closer through weekly discussions. When you deal with somebody frequently, you can't help establishing some level of relationship. Another benefit for bloggers is that it would allow us to choose a weekly guest for the "show" and we could all ask the guest questions in a round-robin fashion (we would all take turns asking questions). We could all then take the interview as source for our blog posts. Despite being on the same conference call, I'm sure we'd all have different takes on the same interview. It would be interesting to see the different opinions. This would be particularly interesting during election season. Imagine having an online debate amongst candidates. The major difference between podcasts and traditional media is that we would not have time constraints. If a podcast goes too long, it could be broken down into parts for download. In short, there are so many possibilities.
Of course, there are some downsides to the project. For one, our guests would have to be willing to make a long-distance call to join the teleconference. This isn't so bad as anybody of consequence can generally afford to do it by a landline, through free weekend minutes on their mobile phone, or even by VOIP. Another disadvantage is that there may be the appearance of collusion on who gets interviewed. The biggest downside is that we would not be able to have anonymous bloggers in the mix without identifying their gender or, possibly, their identity. This limits the panel to "out in the open" bloggers.
I don't know how available high-speed internet is where I'm going; this project may have to wait until I come back. I thought I would throw this out there for my fellow RGV bloggers to consider. I could, technically, do the same show without high-speed internet, but it would be really frustrating to upload through dial-up. For now, let's consider file it under future reference. I am interested in learning about your thoughts on this project if you are an RGV political blogger. Please contact me at rgvlife at yahoo dot com with your thoughts and opinions.
RGV Life Podcast

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Phone Interview with Alma Mata

I am interviewing Alma over the phone prior to our trip to Wisconsin.
Why she decided to go.
Wouldn't she burned out?
Job prospects
Taking our vehicle
Other concerns about the trip
Duration:11 minutes, 16 seconds
Date Last Updated:Sun 28 May 2006 08:34:26 PM CDT
File Size:1.35 MB

MP3 File

RGV Life Podcast #19

may 27, 2006
go over blog entries
expectations in the coming months
Duration:28 minutes, 16 seconds
Date Last Updated:Sun 28 May 2006 12:18:28 AM CDT
File Size:6.78 MB

MP3 File

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Thank you for your support

In the last week, I have received emails and calls from readers to wish me luck on my trip. I want to take moment to thank you. I'll be back in the RGV, for sure. I just need to go make some money so that I can get my life back on track. Believe it or not, I had my act together once upon a time. I had a steady job, good family time, went to lodge at every chance, and even had a budding computer business. I'm not sure where I went wrong. Everything just started to fall apart and I kept sinking deeper and deeper into problems. The problem is financial; which means that the solution is too. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel; but it's a long tunnel. I appreciate your concern and the support you have offered. As I've mentioned in other posts, I had no clue so many people read this blog. I must say that I am surprised and honored.
I have a feeling that migrating this summer will have more benefits than the financial ones I seek. I know that there is a story to tell about the lives of the migrants up north. If I land the job that I'm hoping to get, it means that I will be at the center of many migrant families. I'll have the opportunity to talk to many of them and find out what their challenges are. While I'm at it, I'll find out what their hopes and dreams are. Many people in the Rio Grande Valley have gone up north to work or have family who have. For those of us who can get out of that life, it's great. But we only remember that we don't want to do that for a living. We forget some of the other details about migrating.
Did you know that many migrant families do not speak English? When their kids go to school or pre-school, they don't know English either. It's tough on the kids when they don't know what the blonde lady just told them to do. Did you know that many of the migrant workers out there are not Mexican? This can be a linguistic challenge because Hispanics don't all speak the same Spanish. Did you know that there are college students who go up north with their families to work every year and then head back to their college before classes start? They do this because they won't earn nearly as much coming home to the RGV than they would going up north for a few weeks. Some do it to help their parents and younger siblings out. Migrants don't just go take jobs and live the good life.
There are many stories about why people migrate up north for jobs. Some are simple, some are complicated. In the end, they have all chosen to leave what is familiar in order to make better lives for themselves. I see that this trip and my time working amongst other migrants will give me a better perspective on their lives. I intend to write about all these experiences to give you, my readers, an idea of what the life is like, or to remind you what you left behind. Once I made the decision to go, it seemed like the natural thing to do. I support sealing off the borders, both the southern and northern ones. I support enforcing immigration laws. Not all migrants are illegal aliens. Most are U.S. citizens or resident aliens. I also believe that both Republicans and Democrats are being jerks about the whole immigration issue. The entire thing has come up, conveniently, in time for the November elections. Neither side knows the truth about who is out there and both are using it for political gain. As I was saying, this trip will allow me to give readers of RGV Life a glimpse of what it's like to risk it all for a better life. I think I may be able to fairly pull this off as I will be in the same boat.

Trip postponed

We decided, earlier this week, to postpone our trip to Wisconsin by a week. We had not considered that Memorial Day is this weekend. We prefer low traffic when traveling. Other factors influence the decision as well. For one, my mother still has not received her unemployment check, which will pay her gas. My wife and I are waiting to interview, over the phone, for a couple jobs. She's a shoe-in; I have a pretty good chance. If that job doesn't pan out, I have a backup job. My wife decided, on the spur of the moment, to migrate with me. She canceled her classes and financial aid for the summer. We'll take advantage of the next few days to make sure our van is ready for the trip. Of course, our daughter also has a couple days to go before school ends. We have our work cut out for this week.
There are some ramifications of my wife's decision to go up north with me. By going, our family will become migrant. There are programs set up to help migrants for which we would qualify. Of course, if she goes, the children go. This means that we would need somebody to watch over them. The boy might be able to attend the school where we'll be working. The girl may be able to stay with another girl a couple years older than her who is too young to work. We have a good idea how childcare will go. I mentioned in another post that she would be earning two paychecks this summer. One from Headstart and one from her summer job. Of course, I would be earning good money too. This means that I'll keep the van with me and my wife will bring a newer vehicle with her. I don't want to worry about her van breaking down with her and the kids on her way back, so we'll get her something newer. I'll stay on in Wisconsin for a longer period.
The place we are going to is about an hour away from Minneapolis-St. Paul in Minnesota. We'll have the opportunity to visit the Mall of America. I've also never seen Lake Superior; I intend to visit this Summer. In any case, we are locked in to going this week because we have to go to Oshkosh, which is on the other side of Wisconsin, for training. The state isn't as big as Texas, but there are curvy roads with lots of hills and small towns to pass. Driving at night is also slightly hazardous with the deer. Many migrants smash the crap out of their vehicles when they hit deer. Once in a while it even kills the deer.
We have not set a route yet. One route takes us through Arkansas and Illinois. The other route follows I-35 all the way north and then hang a right. Since we should head towards Oshkosh, the first route may be best. Of course, it all depends on whether we get the job or not. Chances are good, but we need to be open to a different possibility in case things don't pan out.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Latest Pow-Wow

I had a pow-wow tonight with another family that is traveling to Wisconsin. Generally, when migrants travel, we like to travel with people we know or at least with another group of people. The reasoning is that we can count on each other in case something goes wrong. If you travel on your own, you're on your own if something happens to your vehicle. Let's face it, most migrants don't have the latest model of any brand of car. So, there is safety in numbers, even if it's two different families. In any case, they have shared with my family the opportunity to work together.

I'll make some phone calls on Friday morning to get more details. The reason why this is significant is that we may be able to have our moving expenses paid. If the lead pans out, we'll get $900 per person. This gave my wife reason to reconsider staying here in the RGV to take classes. She is considering the possibility of going with me to Wisconsin to work. This means that she would get $900 and I would get $900. On top of that, we would be paid for our work. In addition, there is an end of season bonus of roughly $500 and relocation stipend of another $900. Why the generosity? Well, the location happens to be in the middle of nowhere. However, there are migrants there who need to be serviced. Even amongst the social workers, it is preferable to work in the Waushara County area of Wisconsin because there is an established community of immigrants and migrants. When a new location crops up, there is no Hispanic community. At the risk of sounding like a militant Hispanic racist, we would be in an area surrounded by a bunch of white people.

I'll find out the specifics when I make some phone calls today. If it pans out, we have some cash and leisure time. As a Head Start teacher, my wife earns money through the summer. Any work she does is the frosting on the cake. This means, double pay. I am almost certain that she would be hired with her qualifications. I have reasonable certainty to be hired. Even if I'm not, I can still work at one of the plants in the area and earn even more money. The difference for me is to either earn easy money or bust it a little and earn more money. As a family, we can't lose. My wife's participation is not certain yet. She has to clear some things first. Even if she is not able to go, she would be working towards another goal that would result in an $11K raise thanks to the Texas Legislature's $2K raise for teachers. To sum it up, we are in the crap right now, but things for this summer are looking really good.

In my wife's case, she has a Bachelor's degree in History. She later went back to STC for an Associates degree in Early Childhood Education. Now, she's working to get certified as a teacher. I've been helping her achieve her goals. She still has some ways to go, so I am not free to pursue my goals 100%. Here's the rub. She only needs one class to open a daycare center. We haven't done that because we want to save up enough money to pay for startup costs. For now, if she becomes a public school teacher, it means a $9K raise. With the help of the Texas Legislature, she will have a $2K raise. Teachers make roughly $2K take home pay after taxes and other deductions. Yes, we know that Texas teachers are paid well below the national average. However, keep this in mind. Teachers make about $32K to start. The poverty line is $20K. The most I have earned is $16K. In my wife's job, she will earn $26K this year. Her take home pay after taxes and deductions is $1K. So, we are used to being broke-assed Mexicans. Any gain will go a long way.

Rod Santa Ana, III has it right in his latest article. A college education does make a big difference. He's wrong in only a geographical sense. A college degree makes a big difference only in the Rio Grande Valley. I don't have an explanation for this, believe it or not. I do know that my lack of a college degree has severely limited my options. Even with a Bachelor's degree, my wife had a tough time finding a job. She had to start at Head Start as a bus aid; which is a part-time, minimum wage job. She had to talk her interviewers into giving her a chance to become a teacher aid. Think about it, the arrogance of administrators considering whether a person with a BA in History would be a good TEACHER AID. And it gets better. Hidalgo County only pays teacher aids about $16K. This is one of those WTF moments. But my wife humbled herself and took what they offered in hopes that she could become a teacher. She did. And, due to a transition, she now earns more than most teachers in the Head Start program. She could not have done this without her college degree. Up north, where they need workers, it's easier to find work.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cool invention

Sometimes I enjoy looking through posts to see what kinds of Google ads come out based on the context of the post. Sometimes, you come across some interesting sites. Well, I found this website through the ads and I though that the product is pretty cool. It's an automatic flood control gate that requires no people and no power. Most of the time, people won't even know it's there. The company that makes it is Houston. The system is called Floodbreak. Simply visit http://www.floodbreak.com to see pictures and a video of the system in action. Given the concern with flooding from possible hurricanes, maybe somebody here in the RGV may find such a system useful.

Water Paradox

It occurred to me a while ago while posting the most recent press release by Congressman Hinojosa, that we have two water problems in the Rio Grande Valley. On the one hand, we don't have enough water. Our main source of water is the Rio Grande, which rises and falls depending on the amount of rainfall up at its tributaries and whether Mexican water officials choose to release water to it. For years we've had to conserve water. Our only other sources of drinking water are Circle K and HEB. Some people are able to drill for water. It's not the best solution for everybody, we have lots of areas with brackish water. You can get by with it for laundry and other things, but the high salt content defeats the emulsifying properties of soap. This makes laundry difficult. Your plants may not tolerate high salt content either.
With the hurricane disasters of last year, it came back to our memories that we are in a flood plain. There is a great deal of interest in fortifying our aged levies and improving our drainage systems. The RGV, within recorded history, has been flooded when we were directly hit by a hurricane. The valley has not been hit by a hurricane since then, leading people to believe that we are "overdue". Our levy system, has gone unused for years because we don't get hit by hurricanes often. Yet, we'll be glad that the levies are there when we do.
On the one hand, we don't have enough water. On the other, we can quickly have too much. I find this to be a funny paradox of sorts. This results in a schizophrenic government trying to promote conservation while at the same time protecting us from getting too much water. I recommend you have a two story house or live on the second story at your apartment complex just in case. And, don't forget to limit your water use.

Sad Decision

I have come to a sad decision tonight. I am removing Edinburg News from the
front page of SpinRGV and from any links on my sites. I had hoped that the
blog would improve with the passing of the election and actually work to
elevate the Rio Grande Valley in general and Edinburg politics in
particular. It appears that the author(s) have chosen to continue on a path
of character assassination, deception, and innuendo. I've had requests to
remove the site, but have been reluctant in the interest of fairness.
Finally, the blog has reached the point where they are calling the pockets
where they are going to sink their target. I'm afraid I cannot be party to
helping the blog get attention any longer.

A website is successful by two standards, the amount of readers it gets and
the number of sites that link to it. RGV Life and SpinRGV, from this point
on, will no longer link to the site and I will no longer read any more
posts. My previous post is the last of the sort. I still have most of the
site's deleted posts cached for future reference, just in case. I'm not one
to tell my readers what to do as you can make your own decisions. I do
recommend letting that blog wither on the vine. If you give them too much
attention, they may end up targeting you one day. For now, we know that City
of Edinburg employees are facing some tough times ahead as the targets of a
political witch hunt. I suggest you support them whenever you have a chance.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Local blogger targeting City of Edinburg employees

I was shocked to read the following post at Edinburg News:
What do we know about the Director of Solid Waste? Here is my email address. It's newsbusinessmanage@yahoo.com. This is for anyone that wants to vent out any frustration within city hall. If you think there has been any wrongdoing in this or any other department. If you feel like you have done everything in your power to address the situation to other figure heads. And still nothing has been done about it. Here at Edinburg News we will not try to identify anyone who leaves an email. You can keep it anonymous. Or if you like you can put a name. Doesn't really matter to me. I understand there is a lot of people upset in this department. I'd like to hear from you and to see what you all have to say in a form of an email.
Do you believe the gall of this writer to openly solicit any dirt on a public employee? This writer has become emboldened by the triumph of his or her candidate, Joe Ochoa, in winning back the Mayor's office. Obviously, we cannot assume a direct connection between Joe Ochoa and this writer. Ochoa has not officially endorsed, nor has the writer claimed any direct connection with the mayor. However, Edinburg News could have looked for dirt on city employees before Joe Ochoa took office. There was plenty of time to put people in the crosshairs prior to the election. It is reasonable to assume that the writer is emboldened to take down city employees because he/she feels certain that it would now be "actionable" under the current administration. Again, no known ties, but it doesn't put the mayor in a good light when such a staunch supporter of his goes out and starts political assassination of public employees.

It's one thing to support a candidate with great enthusiasm. It's probably passable to dig up dirt on your candidate's opponent or to spin things to make your candidate's opponent look bad. But this, to go out on a fishing expedition for anything that can be used against a public employee, is reprehensible. With the iron fist with which Ochoa is said to run the city, I'm sure he could get rid of anybody he wants out or suspects is questionable. So, why would Edinburg News care so much about the Director of Solid Waste to solicit any leads to oust him? Obviously, somebody wants the Director out.

Maybe the Director of Public Waste is not doing a good job or maybe he's doing a great job. That's not the point. The bigger point is that this may be the modus operandi of getting rid of "troublesome people" in the city's employ. We shall see in time. I suggest City of Edinburg employees be very careful from here on out. There's a character sniper out to get anybody who gets in the way. In the military, a sniper is more of a psychological weapon than a weapon of mass destruction. The aim, no pun intended, is to demoralize the enemy. I think this may very well be what happens to the city, demoralized workers. Way to go Edinburg News, that's a great way to show your love for the City of Edinburg.

Edinburg News has a history of throwing out dirt that is not true. In another post, I point out a major untruth that would undermine the public's faith in the City of Edinburg. The page has since been deleted to cover up the lies, but pages on the internet live in caches.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Don't Drink the Water

The average family has a long day at work. They come home turn the
water faucet on to make ice tea or kool aid for the kids. And then later that night someone gets sick. Blame your edinburg city council. On June 9, 2005 the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Fined the City of Edinburg $26,600 for a Violation of Water Quality Regulations. Now do you still feel confident in drinking the water? As for me Im not taking any chances.P.S. Don’t forget the tax freeze on the elderly and disabledThe Palacios Gold MineEver wonder where the Palacios live? Ever seen their homes? Ever wonder how they can afford to live the way they do? But yet it seems like they can’t even find a place to put Nick’s son Joey Palacios to work. So what do they do? We the tax payers are responsible for his check. A 51,000 annual salary to be assistant city manager. With NO EXPERIENCE. Also you think it was luck that the city hired Daniel Rios for city attorney with NO EXPERIENCE making $240,000 a year or $20,000 a month for a part time job. No this is what happens when you work in the same building of Ricky Palacios (Nick’s son). Imagine the yard? I wonder how much they pay the gardener?If you drive down business 281 you will see a lot of signs for Richard Garcia for mayor. And you think wow he has a lot of support.
Well all these properties are owned by you guessed it the Palacios family.Kudos to Gene Espinoza for standing up to Noe Garza when Noe made reference to the restaurants saying “We all know the best restaurants are in Mcallen.” Right away Gene spoke up for this great city. But Gene was the only one. Your mayor Richard Garcia said nada, zip, zero. Way to go Gene!!Again you have Richard coming out with ads in the paper saying how edinburg this and edinburg that but guess what people? The council is still saying NO to the tax freeze for the elderly and disabled. Happy Easter Don’t Eat to Much CandyPSS Don’t forget the tax freeze for the elderly!!!!Tomorrow on Edinburg News: Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia or Edinburg Republican Mayor Richard Garcia stay tuned!!!
posted by Edinburg
News at 7:07

In another post, Edinburg News claims endorsement for the Mayor by an official, who endorsed the opponent. Edinburg News has deleted old posts to avoid being caught in lies, but the pages are still cached. I'll republish it here to preserve the embarrassing history.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Rep. Endorses both Richard Garcia & Joe Ochoa

The Palacios family seem to be looking for votes outside the city of edinburg. What does that mean? They have decided to give up on Republican Mayor Richard Garcia. And concentrate on getting Omar elected. Can you say I told you so. I told you that if the Palacios feel they are losing a certain race. They would just drop their candidate. So now they will have complete focus on getting Omar elected. Omar carries the Palacios name. And for Omar to lose would be a big blow to the high egos the Palacios family has. It seems like Richard’s legacy will be that he said NO to the tax freeze for the elderly and disabled. Can the Palacios pull it off in getting Omar elected? The way I see it. To close to call!!!Everyone I talked to tells me that the Palacios family are down, depressed and in shock. About the events that have taken place since the election started. Well hopefully I’ve opened the door on how to go after these people. You expose them and there family. Take it from someone that was extremely close to the family. But now with a fall out between me and some of them. Here I am with Edinburg News!!!!State Rep Aaron Pena Jr seems to be endorsing both candidates. I saw a picture with him and Richard. And then I saw a photo with him and Joe. What’s going on? Comments from Aaron endorsing Joe include:Mayor Joe Ochoa has served the citizens of Edinburg with great integrity and foresight, helping to usher in a period of unprecedented economic growth, improved educational opportunities, new infrastructure projects, andlong-awaited family entertainment facilities Rep Aaron PenaHe has played an instrumental role in attracting to the city new family-oriented entertainment venues, including the Edinburg Professional Baseball Stadium, the and Carmike Cinemas 20, the most technically advanced movie theater complex south of San Antonio; moreover, he has helped to raise the stature of the community by twice leading it to a prestigious All-America City award Rep Aaron PenaMayor Ochoa has helped the city to obtain more than $125 million in new state funds to upgrade U.S. Highway 281, which one day will be known as Interstate Highway 69, and to secure many more tens of millions of dollars for the enhancement of major traffic corridors; a strong proponent of higher education, he has worked closely with state officials and University of Texas System regents to dramatically upgrade the facilities at The University of Texas--Pan American in Edinburg and to create The University ofTexas Regional Academic Health Center in Edinburg Rep Aaron PenaMayor Ochoa may reflect with pride on these many outstanding accomplishments, and his future achievements will no doubt continue to add to his already remarkable legacy as a public servant, a legacy that is perhaps best captured by a quotation from the writer George Eliot: "Our deeds still travel with us from afar,And what we have been makes us what we are."; now, therefore, be it Rep Aaron PenaEdinburg News continues to take to the streets of Edinburg. We continue to bring politics to your front door. When all is said and done. Edinburg News will have passed out 20,000 flyers in reference to this election.Don’t forget election day this Saturday at your local precinct. Don’t forget about the tax freeze for the elderly and disabled!!
posted by Edinburg News at 3:44

The Rep. said...
I have but one endorsement for the Mayor of the City of Edinburg and that is Mayor Richard Garcia. Best wishes to Mr. Ochoa and his family, but in my opinion our city's future is best served with our current mayor. That future will require that we all work together and put aside the differences that have developed over the years. I would hope that each of us join in that effort.
4:27 PM
Edinburg Committee said...
The Honorable Aaron Pena has put you in place about
where he stands. I hope you respect that.Thank you Representative Pena!Thank you Councilman Gene Espinosa!
4:46 PM
Anonymous said...
EdggNews you're a hack!
4:47 PM
Anonymous said...
E-News!How can you defend Supersplash, Calpine, Los Lagos, Glasscock, giving away streets? You can't, 'cause you benefit directly from Ochoa's largess to his cronies. Look up there are more people in Edinburg than your selfish, greedy group of people.
4:49 PM
Edinburg News
Richard Garcia had a fun raiser bar be cue last night in Pharr. Hey
mayor what are you doing in Pharr? Arent you running in Edinburg? Or is it that you want to raise money in case if you lose. So you can repay the loan you got out? Or have you lost your close friends of the Palacios?
5:26 PM
Edinburg Proud
Thank you Rep. Pena for setting Edinburg News straight. I know you
have been in Austin working for your district, but these are the type of lies we have been reading on this site for the past two months. Also thanks Edinburg Committee for your confidence and support.

Some words about Lloyd Bentsen

Local officials have released their sentiments on the passing of U.S. Senator Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr who passed away yesterday in Houston, Texas at age 85. Bentsen was a native of Mission, Texas who went on to a distinguished career in local, state, and federal government. The former Senator suffered from ill health before his departure to eternal sleep.
Here are links to statements by Congressman Ruben Hinojosa and State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

More Possibilities

We have been in touch with some of our friends and family up in Wisconsin. More and more, it appears that we will be going there. We are told that there are plants in Ripon and Markesan that have housing for their workers. The reason why this is important for this trip is so that we can save the money we would otherwise spend on rent. This makes achieving our financial goals that much faster and certain. It turns out that Ripon is the birthplace of the Republican Party. Wow! Hopefully we'll have a chance to work there.
There may be a setback on our departure date. There is a possibility that we may have to delay it for another week. If this is so, then I have time to make some money at a couple odd jobs. I have one wireless computer set-up to do today for a client and maybe some speaker rewiring. We'll see how it works out.

Onward into the Fog

I have added a new newsfeed to the front page of SpinRGV. The site is Onward
Into the Fog, based out of Edinburg. The site is maintained by Graham and
Anne Toal. You can visit the site directly at http://www.gtoal.com to see
more than just the headlines. I had removed other blogs recently that did
not post frequently. The Toals have posts going back to 2004, so it's safe
to say that fresh content can be expected.

2 New Kick-Ass Beers

I'm no beer connoisseur; in fact, if I hadn't taken French for four years I wouldn't even know how to spell it. There are two new beers on the market that are sure to make an impact in the RGV. Let's not pretend we haven't seen the construction workers stop by the convenience stores in the morning to buy their breakfast beers. The new beers are the 24 oz. Hurricane High Gravity and the 211 Steel Reserve High Gravity beers. These weigh in at a whopping 8.1% alcohol content. Being the ever diligent worker for the public interest, I decided to try them both out. My analysis? They kick ass.

I expect that many of our less responsible residents who partake in the occasional beer per hour will find them irresistible. For $1.18, you get twice the kick of regular beer. When it comes to alcoholism, efficiency is key. So, while our workforce adjusts to the strength of the new beers, I expect that there my be more alcohol-related incidents on our roads. I suggest driving with caution as the DPS in the RGV focuses on enforcing the speed limit on Hwy 107 between Alton and Edinburg and some other areas where most people don't drive. Beware swerving work pickups and vans.

X Rated Commercial 1
X Rated Commercial 2

Let me know if there are any other beers I ought to test as I head to the land of the Milwaukee Brewers! You haven't lived until you've been to Oktoberfest in Milwaukee. Actually, you may not remember if you did. Mmmm.... brats and beer.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Brief visit with a friend

I had a computer job to do in McAllen this afternoon, so I made a trip out to the north side today. On the way, I stopped by the bank to pick up my passport and close out my safety deposit box. With all the recent brouhaha on immigration, I figure I need as much proof of citizenship as possible. You can't get any better proof than your passport. So, I did the job and on the way back, I stopped to visit my friend Jason at China Wok.
Things were busy for a while when I got there. I helped out and took an order for a customer, answered the phone, and folded napkins. After a while things slowed down and we got a chance to talk. In case you've never been there, you need to stop by. China Wok is one of the few Chinese restaurants in the RGV that prepares Chinese food for you the way you want it. They can add garlic, make it spicy, make it not spicy, just meat, just vegetables, ... whatever. If you're a buffet eater, then CW is not for you. They don't do buffet. Each dish is individually prepared. Anyway, as I was saying, we got a chance to chat when some tables left. Joe, one of the waiters, was telling me that an older lady chewed him out for not taking May 1st off to go protest. She made a scene in front of the other customers. She accused him of all kinds of things. Joe had no need to protest, he's a citizen. And as he put it, he'd rather have the money.
I also told Jason about my coming trip up north for work. Prior to working at Confetti, I did odd jobs for him. Then, when his wife opened the store, I was hired to set up their phone lines, point of sale system, and to network the computers. It was supposed to be a temporary job; it lasted three years. I stop by and visit once in a while. Jason's always busy, so it's tough to hang out there without volunteering. He has offered me work there as a waiter; but, I've declined. There is some weirdness working there after having left the store. Maybe when I come back. I'll let you know if I'm waiting tables. His waiters make pretty good money (which should tell you something about the experience). I'm thinking that rather than working until December, I'll work until around October and fill the gap waiting tables at China Wok.
One of the benefits of having Jason as a friend is that he has helped me learn a little bit of Chinese (which will be handy in the future). I've learned how to cook my favorite, sausage fried rice. It's not on the menu, but it's delicious. You use smoked sausage, the big horseshoe, white pepper, soy sauce, and rice. Mmmmm. And the 5 spice chicken, also not on the menu, droooool. He's an awesome cook and he has shared some tips with me. He's also one of those guys who doesn't measure his words. He can be brutal sometimes. I think that's why he has so many loyal customers. He talks to his customers. Like me, he's honest, although I'm more diplomatic.
One point that came up is that there is a good possibility that I will be a scarce commodity up north. The feds are still shipping busloads of illegals south, or so they have heard. Perhaps it was a good idea to pick up my passport. While I'm up in Wild Rose, where I was born, I'll pick up a birth certificate for added security. I've got one here, somewhere. Maybe I'll find it. I'm also hearing that in the towns where migrants work, bilingual workers are a needed resource. As the time comes closer, I'm beginning to think that this is the best time to undertake this trip. With respect to the immigration debate, I may gain valuable perspective on the situation. Increasingly, I am more convinced that my decision is the right one. Not only will I rake in some cash that I would not otherwise make here in the RGV; I also stand to gain from the first-hand experience of the effects of the immigration debate. Let's not pretend that many of the workers at factories up north are illegal. I'm sure readers of RGV Life are also curious about the situation of migrants and illegal immigrants. I will find out and share with my readers. If you have any questions, email me at rgvlife@yahoo.com so that I can find out what is on the minds of my fellow co-workers and migrants. They may or may not be illegal immigrants. If they are illegal immigrants, I hope you understand if I don't reveal their working names and call them by their real names. Even better, when interviewing, I'll favor anonymous audio recordings. There are readers who think that my calling illegals "mojados" makes me a bigot. Clearly, they know little of our culture. In fact, I'll ask mojados about it for you to hear. Stay tuned.

The Evolution of Dance

A friend of mine sent me a link to this video. If you need a good laugh, watch it.

Migration Flight Plan

Prior to flight, most pilots will file a flight plan. I'm not so detailed about our trip. We've traveled the roads to the north often enough that we have an idea how to get where we are going. The only time we need maps is when we enter cities or need to watch out for upcoming highway changes. We will probably make a stop by the Hope Migrant Mission Center in Arkansas. This is a place where migrants stop halfway for some rest and showers. They have small duplex trailers with bunk beds where you can sleep and large public showers for men and women. Across the street, there is a mission where parents take their kids for activities like coloring books, reading books, and worksheets. There used to be a place in Cairo, Illinois that provided fuel vouchers and had a few small trailers for migrants. I don't know if they are still there. Just to give you a general idea, we will be going to the area around Kalamazoo, Michigan. I have a cousin who lives out there. We will be filling out applications and visiting our family there. Afterwards, we will be heading to Wautoma, Wisconsin, or thereabouts. I have family there and my mom has some business to do. We'll apply for work there and then head to Rice Lake where we will apply for work at our target company. Afterwards, we will likely hang out in Wisconsin until production begins. I'll get a chance to visit family while I'm up there. Most of my father's side of my family lives there permanently. They are as pale as I am brown.
The reason why migrants apply to so many places is for added insurance that they will get a job. Also, the actual production season does not start until mid-June. If you arrive on time, you may have been beat out by early applicants. If you go early, you have to have enough money to get by, or find temporary work. There is plenty of temporary work. Water is not as scarce in Wisconsin. There are lakes and creeks all over the place. Wisconsin feeds the Mississippi river. Therefore, farming is more viable in the small scale; this means that there is plenty of field work available to get you by. Generally, farmers will pay on a weekly basis. So, keep reading RGV Life for posts about me working with a hoe or planting seedlings.
Once the plants open for production, things won't be so interesting. How energetic do you think I'll be working 12 hour shifts 6 days a week? My goals for the season include getting myself a little car, saving an undisclosed sum of money, paying for my next round of classes at UTPA, and, buying tech equipment for vidcasting and better podcasting. I expect to be back to the Rio Grande Valley around October, or December at the latest. I will continue to use RGV Life for blogging about my experience as a migrant because I intend to come back. As written in another post about RGV blogs, I want to provide historical content about my experiences as a resident of the Rio Grande Valley. One of the population segments of RGV residents is composed of migrants. With this experience, I hope to bring the experiences that migrants face to light for the public. With the current national interest on immigration and illegal immigrants, I know that I'll meet both on this trip. I'll interview them and write about their experiences here as well. There is a lot riding on this experience for me, more than just scratching out a living. I hope you come back to read about it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

RGV Life Podcast #18.1

Addendum to podcast #18. I decided to go up north for work after all. Have ideas for future podcasts.

MP3 File

Visit to Workforce Solutions

I went to Workforce Solutions, McAllen's replacement for the old Texas Workforce Commission office, today. I went just to see what has changed and to explore any possibilities for a last minute attempt at finding "the perfect job", which means one that pays more than minumum wage. The last time I was there was 6 years ago when they were located out by the Plaza Mall.
It started with me signing in as a first-time visitor. I waited in the common area by the doors. They have computers along the cubicles and an island with computers, all with a broadband connection to make web surfing the job sites faster. They have a printed jobs paper that basically relists all the job classifieds in The Monitor. I'd already checked the Sunday paper, so there was nothing new there.
After a while, I got called to talk to one of the case workers. He pulled up my information on his computer, asked me questions about my work history, and made additions and corrections to my profile. I expressed that it was a last ditch effort at finding something that pays more than minimum wage before heading out of the RGV, just in case. He thought it was amusing and agreed that pretty much that is what's available here in the RGV. If I had unrealistic expectations, I would have been deflated at his revelation that good paying jobs in the RGV are few and far between. Fortunately, I'm not that naive and took it as confirmation of my observations. After updating my profile, the case worker asked me to follow him to a testing room where they have computers that administer basic skills tests. The test consists of 35 questions that range from knowledge of work site rules, personality questions, math questions, and spelling questions. I passed, embarrasingly, with a 94%. I can't believe I missed 2 questions.
After the test, I went back to my case worker's cubicle where he looked up some listings for me. I'd already looked and found two jobs that pay over $8/hr, except that they don't list the name of the company. He found the two jobs for me. Given my experience as manager of Confetti, he printed out openings for managers at AutoZone and Circle K. I don't recall the pay info for AutoZone. Circle K is paying roughly $24-26K for store managers. I'll go apply at their Palmview location. I'm going to have to press them to make a quick decision. I have a deadline of Friday to find a decent job; otherwise, I'll miss my ride and I'm stuck here.
One thing I don't understand about business is that people are expected to make quick key decisions with the understanding that "time is money". Yet, when it comes to hiring, nobody seems to want to make a quick decision. I blame the government, of course. If it weren't such a pain to fire somebody, it wouldn't be so tough to hire somebody. In any case, finding work in the RGV without a degree is easy if you are willing to compromise on your standard of living.
I decided to go to Workforce Solutions initially because the Sunday paper has plenty of listings. The ones that pay better are for work in South Dakota, Corpus Christi, Florida, and elsewhere. I'm not talking accounting, medical, or other degreed jobs. There's plenty of those here. The well-paying jobs for non-degree workers are elsewhere.

Now What?

My wife came back from doing laundry at her mother's, today. Our apartments have a coin-operated laundry, so we do our best not to use it. This was a few hours ago. She came back telling me that I should go up North. She believes that I won't be happy staying here in the RGV. Alma tells me that I'm settling for what I can get, again, like I have in the past. She doesn't want to see me anxious and restless as I have been as the end of the job I was offered draws near. This is a major development as she has been opposed to my leaving up until now.
Geez, what timing. I start work tomorrow, if I stay. If I go, I need to go in and tell them that I won't be accepting the job. This makes it really short notice, and I hate to do that. Now I'm up trying to decide whether to migrate or stay in the RGV. There's several factors. One of them is leaving my family. My wife, whose opinion matters to me, has effectively given me her blessing. There are other people who matter to me who are opposed to my leaving the RGV. The reason why I believe that my future lies outside of the RGV is that most of the people with whom I grew up have left and made something of themselves. Some have come back. Those who have done something with themselves here, had a family business to join or had financial support while they went through college. Or, in the case of the really pretty ones, have had no problem getting hired. The point is, nobody who wasn't already connected has "made it" here. They made it somewhere else and came back.
My wife also visited with our comadre today. She and her husband came down from Arkansas for the weekend. He's working at Tyson processing chicken. He got the job soon after getting out of prison. Now he's earning $10/hr and they are buying a duplex. That's not "get rich" pay, but try getting that in the RGV. He knew, right away when he got out, that he would have to leave home. My sister-in-law and her husband moved to Houston because they couldn't make it here either.
As for the blogging it would no longer be RGV Life. I'd probably have to change the name or start a new one. Spin RGV pretty much runs itself, it pulls feeds automatically and updates without any involvement from me. The SpinRGV Blog I could do remotely. It's just a matter of copying and pasting press releases. I would lose out a bit while I get myself a computer and Internet access. I may have to do a lot of audio blog entries until I'm set up. But then I'd be back in business soon after. My other blogs, MissionHSReunion.com and MissionTexas.net can be maintained via email as well. I can manage blogging with a T-Mobile Sidekick II if I can't get a computer.
Staying is the easy part. I just go in to work. If I leave, I've got until Friday to prepare for the trip. So, what do I think? Both options are good. If I stay, I would work at doing something new and untested. If I go, I'm on my own somewhat. I have to find a way to make it, sink or swim. Both promise to be an adventure. Except one only lasts a few weeks. The other could be anywhere from a few months to a few years. I'll be back for certain. The RGV is a good place to retire. Let me think and make a decision.

Friday, May 19, 2006

How much does a migrant earn?

This is hard to quantify. It depends on the circumstances. A single migrant won't make so much money if he works in the fields only. He'll make some money, don't get me wrong, but not as much as a family would earn by working together. A single migrant is better off working in factories of some sort. Some factories will pay for housing and transportation to and from work, leaving groceries as the migrant's only expense. Obviously, working alone, a migrant would earn money at an hourly rate. Realistically, with overtime, a migrant can earn around $2000 a month or more, depending on experience. This year, for example, Del Monte is paying between $6 to $9 an hour. Overtime is certain during peak production. Effectively, with the top pay rate, a migrant can gross about $3000/month.
In the fields, it gets complicated. In some jobs, like onions, you get paid 50 cents a sack. A sack consists of two buckets (the taller ones, not the 5 gallon) of onions. It's not so bad when the onions are huge. Sometimes you get fields where the onions are puny; that makes your heart sink. If you can manage about 100 sacks, you make about $50 daily. But that's really busting your butt alone. A family can do more than that, obviously, and will earn more money. I saw some families get around 200 to 250 sacks per day. When you take into account that work generally starts right at sunrise as the dew is evaporating and ends around 5 PM, 10 hours, you see that migrants don't make that much money in onions on their own.
Tomato, in some places, pays by the basket. You fill up your basket and take it to the truck. They will give you a token. Later, you cash in your tokens. I don't know how this works, we did tomato so long ago. When we worked in the tomato in the RGV, we paid the farmer $100 to let us fill the back of our pickup. Then we went to stores around the valley to sell the tomato.
I did have a chance to work in the pickles. This is different from the onions in that with onions, you harvest a field once. With pickles, you harvest a field for a few weeks. That works more like contract work. You choose your area, with enough work to last you a week, because you need to give the cucumbers time to grow. Pickles are paid differently. You get paid by the pound according to the size of the cucumber. The smaller, jar-sized pickles pay the best. When you take in your pick for the day, the farmer runs it through a sorter that separates the pickles by size and drops them in boxes by size. Up in Wisconsin, there are several pickling plants around. The farmer also sells cucumber. If they are too big, the farmer just throws them out or feeds them to the cows. There are plenty of cows in Wisconsin. Again, a single worker doesn't really earn as much money. A family stands to make more money.
Migrants do other work as well. In the fields, there is cabbage, asparagus, tobacco, and other stuff. Corn, obviously, is harvested by machine, so no migrants are needed. Early in the season, there is work planting the crops. This is pretty cool. A few people will sit behind a tractor on seats that have a rotating planter. You put a box of seedlings next to you and put them in the planter one by one. The contraption then plants the seedling in the ground evenly as the tractor moves forward. Somebody walks behind to make sure that the seedling is covered with soil and to plant a seedling wherever there's one missing. This work is paid hourly. Another job that's available prior to the harvest is hoeing. You get your hoe and pull out any weeds. In the case of pickles, you have to take out excess plants too. The plant is a vine, so it spreads. If you have too many close together, they don't yield as much. Hoeing is also paid hourly, or can be paid by contract, depending.
Field work is hard. It can be backbreaking. The first few days just kill you. Everything hurts. After the first week, you grow accustomed to the soreness. Your back may or may not get better. Your legs and knees also share some punishment. Mostly, it's your back that suffers. We found that it helped to wrap a burlap sack around your waist to help relieve some of the soreness. I don't know how it works; it helps. The positive side, if you can say that, about such tough work is that you are dog tired by sun down. That is some of the best rest you'll ever have.
Working in a plant is not so backbreaking and may pay better, although you will be working 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week. The most difficult part of that kind of work is being on your feet all day. The biggest distinction between this work and being in the fields is that when you're in the fields, you really aren't supervised.  So long as you produce, nobody really cares what you do out there. Some people work in silence, others turn up the stereo in the car or truck. In a factory, you have a specific job and have to stick to it. If you're lucky, you can rotate to relieve the boredom in the factory. Most of the time however, you'll be performing the same tasks over and over.
Most migrants go up north, not to get rich, get real. They go up there because work is so abundant. Even if you have limited education and limited understanding of English, you can get a job. Generally, you bond, somewhat, with other workers and form a loose network. You call each other from time to time to find out where they are working and if there is more work available. This is odd for our culture. Mexicans don't generally trust each other, which is why they leave Mexico. But we do help each other find work. I can't explain why this happens. I imagine that networking has improved with the use of mobile phones. I haven't migrated recently, so I don't know for certain. In any case, the advantage of taking your phone number with you is that you can be found by your old friends easier, or you can find them. I'll ask some friends how helpful their mobiles are in finding work. In summary, migrants can earn good money for a short period of time. Some just earn enough to get by. Again, many migrants don't go up north to get rich, they do it because it's easier to find work and pays better than staying here in the Rio Grande Valley.

The Struggle of the Early Catholic Church

For regular readers of RGV Life, you know that I recently read the Da Vinci Code to prepare to watch the movie. The movie, by the way, sounds like it's bombing. I agree with Denise that the story was predictable and the writing was a little weak. I read it partly to satisfy my curiosity about all the fuss. The book is fiction, and it does take some elements of truth and twists them to make an alright story. I think what freaked a lot of people out is that it made them, despite it being fiction, question their faith a little.

For me, I decided to read about the Gnostic Gospels. As you may recall, the Mrs. is a History major; I was able to pick up a book by Elaine Pagels. It's interesting to read about the gnostics. They had a different understanding of the nature of God. I haven't finished the book yet, but it is bringing back memories of the impression I got when I read the bible. Yes, I started at page one and kept going. After graduation from High School, I went to Europe. While in Rome, it seemed like a good idea to buy a bible for myself. A lot of the bible is history. Plenty of begetting going on in the first books; they didn't have cable back then. I especially like the books of Psalms, Wisdom, Proverbs, and Ecclesiasticus. Once you get into the New Testament, it's like Groundhog Day. Anyway, reading through Pagels's Gnostic Gospels to the point where I am, chapter 2, I'm reminded of the impression that I get from having read the bible. Now keep in mind that Jesus never read the New Testament. As a rabbi, he would have been familiar with the Old Testament and whatever other works traditional to a good Jewish lad. I think I understand what the gnostics knew. I can't explain it. I recommend you read the bible, either you get it or you don't. It's like Ritalin, it helps or it doesn't. To give you an idea, without any training and without interference from somebody to "help" me interpret, it seemed to me that... this is going to shock you... that the God we are told about is not the God described in the Bible. I get the impression from the good book that God is wisdom.

Try to forget all about your New Testament knowledge. That stuff gets in the way of understanding the God of the Old Testament, Jesus' Heavenly Father. It just seems to me that you could interchange the words God and wisdom all willy-nilly and not lose any meaning whatsoever. The book I am reading tells about "secret knowledge" that Jesus passed on to some of his disciples that was hidden in parables for the general public. While reading, the text seemed to speak to me. God is Wisdom. If you disobey wisdom, you get nailed. I still have some more chapters to read, but I thought I'd share where I am, currently. We have another book about the gnostics when I'm done with this one.

What the whole uproar is about is that the early Catholic Church had to decide what identity it would have. Jesus did not leave any operations manuals, so it was up to his followers to figure out what to do. What may be, understandably, embarassing for the church is that they worked so hard to rid themselves of heretics. Obviously, there may be some criticism about the authority held by the church hierarchy. I don't think that it will affect much. Most people in are in for faith. Those who would criticize the church are protestant or something else. The threat to the church's authority has already occured.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Clarification on Tuberculosis Arrests

Eddie Olivarez, CEO of the Hidalgo County Health Department, was on KURV with Davis Rankin this morning. He made some clarifications about the arrests of two men with tuberculosis. The Health Department does everything within their power to provide treatment for tuberculosis for anybody afflicted with the disease. The two arrested men had failed to cooperate with the health care providers for their own care. The Health Department will only go to that extreme "whenever we have exhausted all opportunities and have made all efforts" to help the individual, according to Olivarez. The county does not want to discourage anybody with tuberculosis from seeking assistance as this puts the whole community at risk. The Rio Grande Valley is second to Houston in the number of TB cases in an MSA. However, as a percentage of population, TB is higher in the RGV. A lot of the reason for this is due to the high flow of immigrants through this region. Anybody being treated currently does not have to fear being arrested; that only happens in rare and extreme cases to provide monitored treatment for the individuals.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

RGV Life Podcast #17

Local election results and thoughts.
Illegal immigration in the RGV and border enforcement.
Personal notes and projects.
Duration:20 minutes, 32 seconds
Date Last Updated:Wed 17 May 2006 04:33:55 PM CDT
File Size:4.93 MB

MP3 File

Picking Up Speed

My goal to turn SpinRGV into a central clearinghouse of political and local government information is beginning to grow legs. When you start doing something that is totally alien to your everyday life, you don't know how to get what you need. When I started out on the project, I had not the slightest idea how to ask for press releases. Some press secretaries blew me off because I was obviously not aware of what I needed. I figured out how to ask to be added to media lists and have had good response thus far. Of course, the more sources of news I add, the more legitimacy my project gains. This, in turn, makes it easier to convince others to participate.
This being a low budget project, meaning no budget, has also contributed to the difficulty of getting things going. I have to be mindful of where I spend my mobile minutes as we have foregone the need for a home phone. I had a break, recently, in that I have improved internet speed at home. This allows me to use the Gizmo Project for phone calls. Now, it's really affordable to engage in the phone calls and follow ups necessary to get added to media lists; they charge only 1 cent per minute to anywhere in the U.S.
I've also taken up contacting fellow bloggers to get to know them better and see what, if anything, we have in common. So, if I call you or send you an email, it's just me trying to add some depth to your online persona. All we see are words on a computer screen. There is somebody behind those words. I've got a few minutes to get Podcast #17 going. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cutting it close

Yesterday, I got a call with a job offer in McAllen. I've called back to accept the offer and am trying to get more details about it. I will be teaching robotics. I start orientation on Monday morning. This is great news and a great relief. I have great ideas for the job that I can't wait to put to work. I love jobs where the rules are not yet written. Usually, when a job is defined, you get stuck doing one little thing over and over. You get thumped on the head if you try to do more. I don't get that impression with this position. I'll be breaking ground in a brand new direction. Already, I have ideas for seeking funding and resources to help make the class a success. I'll tell you more about it once I sign the dotted line.
This was a close call. I had pretty much already decided to pack up and head out of town next week for greener pastures. I had come to accept that I would be missing some important moments in the lives of my children. In fact, thanks to the Internet, I had started getting online applications for companies up north. If the deal falls through, I have a couple days to pack up and leave. I have that less desirable option viable as a contingency. In the meantime, I'm walking with a smile and a spring in my step.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Alton HeadStart Update

As reported this morning, the Alton HeadStart was damaged after severe thunderstorms last night. The sheet metal on the older part of the building was sheered off due to high winds. After initial inspections, it appears that three of the classrooms received most of the damage from the storm. Damage to other parts of the building are still unknown. Rain water formed bulges in the sheetrock. Maintenance crews had to poke holes in the ceiling paint to allow the water to trickle down. Inside the classrooms, most of the contents got wet. Crews took out the rugs and furniture from the rooms after insurance adjusters inspected the damage. As in most cases where there is moisture introduced into the interior of a building, mold will be something to prevent while making repairs.In the meantime, with the possibility of more rain tonight, repair crews have covered the damage with a plastic sheet and will resume repairs in the morning. There is no verification yet, but it is initially reported that the contractor who installed the roof did not use the customary screws used to secure metal roofs, choosing staples instead. Confirmation of this report is still pending.
There are questions about what to do with the staff at the Alton Headstart. Due to the unexpected event, graduation of the pre-schoolers is on hold and possibly canceled. Officials do not foresee that the school will reopen any time soon. Teachers were counting on the two weeks before end of school to catch up on end of year reports. With the empty classrooms, the teachers will have time to finish their paperwork. The question then is, what to do with the staff for the remainder of the time? One thought is to use them as substitute teachers as needed throughout HeadStart. Given that this sort of incident is not encountered by the organization on a regular basis, many questions are up in the air until questions about how to fund the situation are resolved. Towards the end of the year, HeadStart always faces a budget crunch. There is concern that not having the Alton children in class for the remainder of the school year will affect the program's funding. Any shortfall will not doubt affect next year's crop of pre-schoolers.

Call me Ismael

Over a year ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Dallas for the trade show. While there, I got a chance to talk to the cab driver who would be on call while we were in town. His name was Ismael; he was from Eritrea, a little African country next door to Ethiopia. He looked like maybe he was in his early 40s. Ismael was working as a cab driver and he lived in his vehicle. During his off-time, he slept in his car. I didn't ask how he managed his hygiene needs. Ismael was a married man, but his family was back in Africa. Most of what he earned he sent home to his wife and, I think, six children. Ismael came to this country legally so that he could provide a better life for his family. He planned on going back home within a couple of years. One thing that I've noticed from people like Ismael and other immigrants who come to the U.S. as resident aliens is that they don't feel victimized. They don't feel like second class citizens. They are doing what they came here to do, work and earn a living. Some bring their families, others come alone and send money home. Either way, they sacrifice to come to America and they make things happen for themselves. People who "defend" illegal aliens don't see the injustice committed to people like Ismael who did what it took to come here legally.
Many of the arguments about immigration being the new "civil rights" issue is a bunch of nonsense. The United States does take in immigrants who come here legally. We even provide benefits, to some extent, to illegal aliens. Our country has no moral failure on this issue. The failure is on the side of the governments from where these people come. Those countries have failed to provide equal opportunity for their citizens. They fail to provide "economic justice", which many illegal immigrant defenders claim we should offer. If illegal immigrants had some of their basic needs met back home like they do here, they would not have to come here. If anybody should be protested, it should be the home countries of the illegal aliens for their total lack of responsibility in providing for their own people. That is where the injustice lies.
People like Ismael are an inspiration. I admire the strength of character in his sacrifice to provide a decent life for his family, even if he does not get a chance to see them. As I contemplate the possibility of leaving the RGV to work up north without my people, it causes me sadness. I know that in doing so I would miss my daughter's birthday this summer. I would miss my son's first day of pre-K. My wife would have to be a temporary single mother raising the two. Things like this are reasons for pause. Another side of me, I imagine similar to immigrants, tells me that I need to do whatever it takes to get ahead. I can stay here and barely scratch out a living, or I can sacrifice for a few months to work towards a decent future. By staying here, I am simply putting off paying for my past mistakes. So, I am weighing the alternatives for my success. I can either be a great, but broke, husband and father; or I can earn a decent living for my family, but be apart from them. What choice would you make? Would you stay home or would you be like Ismael?

Last Night's Storms

A heavy thunderstorm rolled through the Rio Grande Valley last night. The storm brought with it strong winds and lightning. Although the storm had rain, it was not a major factor. In Mission, the main fury occurred between midnight and 2 AM. Residents in my neighborhood could be seen outside tying down loose objects and looking attentively for any signs of funnel clouds. Evidence of the fury of the storm was apparent this morning with damage throughout the RGV. At my apartment complex, a section of a cedar fence rested right behind our vehicle this morning blocking the parking lot. A few feet East and it would have hit the car.
In Alton, the Hidalgo County Headstart canceled classes after the storm ripped the north side of the roof off of the building. Sections of the steel roof were strewn in front of the school on the street and in the parking lot adjacent to the Recreation Center. One section of the roof was right at the door of the building. Inside, the classes were all wet from the rain that poured through the rafters. Next door at the Mission Hospital Clinic, their communication antenna was blown over. South of there, on Conway, a Quince tree was split down the middle.
KURV announced damage in other cities that included roof damage and fallen trees. No injuries have been reported.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Migrant Worker Life and RGV Prospects

I have not been attentive to RGV politics or other goings on this week. I'm having some issues, as some people would say. Also, recently, my mother and I are beginning to see no other option than to migrate up north for the summer. Our job prospects are simply not interested. I had a shot at a good county job, but I didn't know I had an interview and blew my chance by not calling HR to ask. Everybody wants to pay minimum wage and hire you part-time. Many jobs that are full-time want to get away with minimum wage. The jobs that pay above minimum wage and hire full-time have a long list of applicants from which to choose. I can't seem to get past the interview. My options are limited in many cases because "a bachelor's degree is preferred". Those for which I do qualify without a degree don't want me because I'm so close to graduating. Those for which I don't qualify, well, I don't qualify.I've bought my last Sunday paper to check for jobs. It's pointless to continue into summer because summers are slow in the RGV. Business slows down and hiring slows down.
I'm being careful about where I apply because I was stuck in a small business before. Although your contribution means a lot to a small business, you don't have very many steps to go before you can't be promoted anymore. Last job gave me one raise in three years. Once you stop getting promoted, you can kiss any raises good-bye. Unfortunately, there aren't many businesses that offer a career-path in the RGV without a degree. I don't know; I'm just disappointed. I know how to get ahead, I've seen many people do it; lie on your resume or have connections. I have a damned self-image of myself that keeps me from lying. I keep telling myself that those who are dishonest will eventually get discovered. They never do; and they keep getting ahead. All one can do is try not to be cynical and have faith that the right thing will come along.
This brings me to something that bugged me recently. My daughter came home with a printout on which she had to write a report about migrant life. Let me tell you that migrant life is not so bleak as it was back in the 60s and 70s. Today, migrant work is a viable way of life. Many people, families do it year after year. The printout she had told exaggerated stories about how migrant workers work more than 8 hours per day, don't have basic amenities, work without benefits like health insurance, and other nonsense. The lies about migrant life apply equally to the lives of illegal immigrants. It's popular to paint migrants and illegals as "second-class" citizens who get the short end of the stick in life. Once you get past Falfurrias and you enter the United States, life is good. Let me dispel some of the lies out there about migrants and illegals.
For one, migrants and illegals work in the fields for farmers. Some farmers will set up housing on a piece of their property for their workers. Usually, these are mobile homes. They aren't the best available, but they're free and have water and electricity. Some farmers will lease barracks or camps for their workers to stay. Again, housing is free or very affordable. If you go up there and work as a "solo", or bachelor, you can even count on free transportation to and from work. If you have a family, some camps have transport, others don't. Still, that means your expenses are transportation and food. The "solos" with housing and transportation only need to worry about food.
So, what about food? Well, food stamps and Medicaid are considered income to the migrant and illegal immigrant mind. Upon arrival, one of the first orders of business is to apply for public assistance, if you have a family. If you are alone, then food really won't be a big problem. In any case, another expense just got eliminated. But wait there's more. Health insurance isn't a big deal because you may have Medicaid for your family. Only Dad is uninsured. Still, Dad can go to one of the free clinics available for migrant workers. Yes, there are free clinics. If somehow you can't make it on food stamps, there are food pantries that help the needy.
What about working more than 8 hour days? The nature of working in the fields is that you get paid more if you produce more. When you agree to work for a farmer, he'll let you choose how much work you will take on. You can take on as little or as much as you want. Keep in mind that if you choose enough work that can get done between 8 and 5, you won't make much money. You are better off choosing enough work to last you all day because you can then turn in more produce and earn more money. There isn't somebody walking around cracking a whip telling you to move it. Migrant workers have to be self-motivated enough to take on the heavy loads of work and carry out the work day after day for weeks during the harvest season. It's by choice that they are out there from dawn to dusk. If they wanted, they could knock off at 5 and go home.
You probably think that after all the hard work and long hours that life is tough for migrant workers. After the first week or two when your body gets adjusted to the strain, you don't really feel pain anymore. You may have a little bit of muscle soreness, but nothing like the first few days. In fact, in areas where there are sufficient migrants around, local bars and halls will have Mexican dances. People will drive 30 or 40 miles after work to have a good time at a baile. Most migrants schedule their work so that they will have either Saturday and Sunday or just Sunday off. Migrant workers go to church too. In areas with sufficient migrants, the priest will have a mass in Spanish. Also on Sundays, migrants will go shopping for groceries, go eat out at a restaurant, go to the flea market, and look for a nice used car. Maybe once a month, migrants go to the big city to shop for school clothes, electronics, visit a tienda Mexicana, or just go sight-seeing.
Even if they don't go out on the weekend, migrants will hang out at the camp. Guys will be outside chatting, fixing cars, drinking beer, and sometimes barbecuing. The women may be busy doing laundry, chatting, or preparing the barbecue side dishes. Parents don't worry about their kids running around because most of the camps are out in the boonies. There is plenty of space for them to run around and nothing that will get them in trouble.
What about childcare? What about it? If you have young kids, there are programs like the Texas Migrant Council that provide daycare for pre-school children. TMC is like Head Start except they are seasonal. There is also summer school for the older kids. If your kids are 12 or older, they go with mom and dad to work or just hang out in the fields while mom and dad are working. Of course, some parents will hire a girl in the camp to watch over their kids while they are working. Childcare is not an issue.
Suffice it to say, many of the people who are "pro-immigrant" and like to tell how bad illegal aliens have it don't really know their left from their right. The illegals with whom I've worked don't have the challenges that are alleged by advocates. For about $150 you can buy an identity with social security card to get a job. So long as they don't try to file a tax return and work seasonal jobs at different locations, they'll get away with it. They have access to all of the programs established to help migrant workers. The label Migrant Worker has "/illegal alien" in between but is generally not written. Migrant work generally lasts one or two generations until the family produces their first college graduate. For most people, it's not a lifelong career. It's just a seasonal cash cow that has to be milked until better things come around.
In my case, I'm in a tight spot and there is money up north just waiting for me to harvest it from grateful employers. Life has improved in the Rio Grande Valley, but our employment methods are out of sync with the rest of the country. With a perpetually high unemployment rate, employers here can pick and choose their applicants and set higher standards with lower pay. This works for them, I suppose. Sometimes the best way to beat somebody at their game is not to play. I refuse to be duped into working for less money than I need to get ahead. I have a specific need to be able to meet my goals. As much as I love the Rio Grande Valley and advocate its growth and prosperity, I have to admit that I can make a better living working with menial labor up north than I can here at computers, clerical, or other "easier" work. I can't afford to sacrifice my and my family's well-being for the benefit of my employer any longer. Loyalty has not paid off in the least. In fact, you are better off as a migrant than trying to get by in the Rio Grande Valley.
Before closing, let me illustrate to you how absurd wages are in the RGV. Poverty is around $20k or less. Divided into 52 weeks and 40 hours a week, that's about $9.50/hr, if you don't take a vacation. Hidalgo County, for instance, has many job listings at around $16K to $20K. This week's job listings:
Sheriff's Dept. Communications Officer: $ 24,540.04 - $ 25,562.54
Truck Driver II: $18,000
Maintenance I (Road and bridge/parks): $20,800
Heavy Equipment Operator II (precinct 3): $20,800
Truck Driver III: $23,705
RN Supervisor: $52,788
LVN: $44,658-46,518
Head start Teacher: $23,483
Lifeguard (temp): $8.50/hr
Bus Driver/Maintenance: $16,868
Notice that some of these listings are for less than $20k or hover right at the poverty line. After taxes, insurance, and other deductions, how much do you think these workers will have left over? This is our county government paying these wages. The job I wanted pays around $24k. It's hardly exciting for most technical people who expect to make $30-$40k. It was great for me as I've never earned more than $16k in the RGV with three jobs, and I would have taken it had I made it to the interview. I will give kudos to the City of McAllen. They have made an effort to provide a "living wage" to their employees. They are to be commended for their respect for their workforce. I guess what I'm saying is that if you don't have a degree in the RGV, most people cannot expect to make a reasonable living. This is a big contributing factor to talent leaving the RGV for greener pastures. Things are good here, but can stand some improvement.
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