A building that shades itself

By Paul Fiarkoski

My office is in Downtown Tempe AZ. I often walk by this building designed as an inverted pyramid. Seems like such a smart design for the Valley of the Sun.

Unlike most office buildings that get super hot from intense sunlight beating on them, I never see any sunlight directly hitting the glass on this building. I’d like to know more about the energy efficiency of the design, such as how does it compare with more modern buildings with good LEED ratings.

About the building

  • Tempe Municipal Building
  • Construction completed 1971
  • Designed by the architectural firm of Michael & Kemper Goodwin

It’s okay for stores to be open on Thanksgiving and Christmas

I used to be one of those people who grumble every year that stores shouldn’t be open on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Before I tell you the key event that shifted my thinking, here are a just a few of three reasons why I think it’s okay for stores to be open on holidays:

  1. Not everybody celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas
    As much as many diehards would like to mandate that all Americans recognize these holidays as days to spend at home with family, it’s just practical for everyone. One year, on the day before Thanksgiving, I told the one woman working at the checkout stand of our local supermarket that I hope she has Thanksgiving off. She informed me that she will be working the holiday, then quickly assured me she’s okay with it because she’s in the U.S. on a study visa and it’s not a holiday she’s used to celebrating. And since none of her family is in the United States, she wouldn’t be able to celebrate it with them any way.
  2. People celebrate in different ways
    Not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas in the same way. Given how diverse and mobile our society is these days, it’s more common than ever for family members to converge in one location from around the country in order to celebrate. In 2015, my family of four drove 13-plus hours from Phoenix to San Antonio the day before Thanksgiving to attend a reunion dinner planned for Thanksgiving day. We arrived at our hotel at 1 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. If not one supermarket were open that day, there is no way we, or many of the other guests, would have been able to bring anything for dinner.
  3. Some people enjoy working on the holidays
    Believe it or not, there are some people who actually enjoy working on holidays – especially when they can earn 1-1/2 to 2 times their normal pay. I personally know several people who count on holiday pay so they can survive the holidays financially or pay off bills. For others, it’s not so much about the money, but they’d just rather be around people than sitting home alone dwelling on the fact that they have nobody to celebrate the holiday with. This was definitely the case for the woman I mentioned earlier.

Like many people, I once thought it was sacrilegious for stores to be open on Thanksgiving or Christmas. That all changed the year my young daughter had a painful ear infection on Christmas morning. Were it not for the cheerful staff of the local Walgreens committing to be at work that day, the outcome of our holiday might have quite miserable.

Unless I hear of people being forced to work on a holiday or face consequences, I will forever support the right of businesses to open their doors on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The road trip of a lifetime

In October 2015 my 17 year-old daughter and a few of her friends talked me into chaperoning/chauffeuring them on a 5-day RV road trip from Phoenix, AZ to Telluride, CO via Monument Valley in the Four Corners region.

It was just me and six high school seniors. I tried to teach them a few things about responsible road travel and fellowship.  Instead, they taught me a few things:

  • Live in the moment. There’s plenty to worry about later on.
  • Look for things to laugh about and, if you don’t see them, make them happen.
  • The day doesn’t end until you say it does.
  • There’s some mighty fine dining to be had in the upper, back room of a grungy pizza joint.
  • Rainy days can’t dampen the spirit of adventure.
  • Living in today’s world requires a lot of recharges.
  • My daughter’s going to be alright.

As with most vacations, it’s best to let pictures (and video) tell the story. Check this video one of the young men made:

Awesome hike: Hidden Valley in South Mountain Park, Phoenix

Wow! That was, and still is, my reaction to this short detour trail off of National Trail in the South Mountain Park in Phoenix, AZ. Hidden Valley is an awesome tribute to the forces and beauty wpid-wp-1423458166079.jpegof nature.

Hidden Valley trail is aptly name because it’s a trail you can hike only after a 2-plus mile hike in on either National or Mormon trail. As such, the .9-mile segment of the hike labeled Hidden Valley is not overrun with other people. If you don’t see the sign, you can walk right by it and not even know what you missed.

In January 2015, I hiked the entire length of National Trail (approx. 14 miles) and saw nowhere near the natural beauty that awaits hikers on the Hidden Valley segment. Oddly, some of the most magnificent features are within a few hundred feet of National Trail itself.

Here are some of the more notable features from Hidden Valley in South Mountain Park:

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Here is the hike summary via Mapmyhike .

If you go, be sure you have good stable shoes and socks – no flip flops – and a couple quarts of water.


How to shock a fast food server

People who work in fast food pretty much see and hear it all. There is very little you or I say that they haven’t heard before.

Recently, I had an exchange with an African American worker at a nearby McDonald’s that left us both nearly speechless. I had just stopped in to use the free wifi and catch up on emails, so when it was my turn to order, I approached with my customary, “May I please have a small black coffee.”

“There’s that word again,” she replied.

I stood there in stunned silence thinking my use of the word “black” offended her. A checkmate of the eyes ensued for several seconds as I grasped for my next words.

Thankfully, she broke the silence with, “Please. I hardly ever hear that word and it’s so pleasing to the ear when I hear it.”

I explained that my niece who works in fast food recently told me that her biggest pet peave is when people come up to the counter and say “I want….”

Having worked in a number of service roles in the past myself, I try to be pleasant with service workers as a rule. However, my niece’s perspective helped me realize that I need to bring my A game in manners whenever I interact with fast food workers. Plus, I’ve been trying to model better manners for my teen daughters; even though they weren’t with me on this occasion.

I challenge you to give it a try. Next time you’re ordering food from a fast food worker, see if you can shock them by using your best manners. Extra credit: address the person by the name on his or her name tag when you thank them.

Reflections on 2015 Super Bowl in Arizona

The Super Bowl came to Arizona in January 2015 and so did the world’s spotlight. The game went down as one of the most memorable in history.

Who will ever forget the Seahawks’ decision to pass on second down with the ball on the one yard line and the league’s reputed most powerful runner, Marshawn Lynch, at their disposal? How could anyone forget the interception by Patriots’ rookie Malcolm Butler? Even he looked shocked when the cameras captured his reaction on the sidelines.

There were plenty of memorable plays made on the field and during the halftime show featuring Katy Perry. As a resident of Phoenix, some of my memories of the 2015 Super Bowl experience have more to do with the impact the game had on our city.

I was priced out of the game but I did participate in a couple of the fanfest activities. I made a small slideshow and short video from my fanfest experiences.

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Here are some my lasting impressions of the Super Bowl XLIX experience in Arizona :

  • Glendale mayor Jerry Weiers whined on national tv because his city will likely lose money by hosting the Super Bowl because of the cost of security and police officer overtime.
  • Both teams stayed in hotels less than ten miles from our home. This made for a few exciting moments with team sitings, but also caused some traffic snarls.
  • Pre-game festivities began about a week before the Super Bowl at four key locations, with the primary spot being downtown Phoenix.
  • Reportedly, over a million visitors, many of them celebrities, made their way to Phoenix during Super Bowl week. Thats’ a mind-boggling number considering the stadium holds less than 80,000.
  • According to media sources, tickets in the nosebleed section were selling for $9,000 the week of the game. Our church pastor mocked the price by saying we could offer our kids tickets to the Super Bowl or a car.
  • All the local hotels made bank, with even the cut-rate places charging around $400 a night. From the looks of things, many of the restaurants made out pretty well too.
  • Game day weather was pretty spectacular, with warm temps and clear skies. However, the four days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday were very Seattle-esque.

Note: I am not an NFL fan. The Super Bowl game is the only game I will watch in entirety during the season.

The work ethic of teens these days

Those of us of the Gen X generation and older often pass judgment on the teens of today with statements like these:

  • They have it so easy.
  • They don’t know what hard work is.
  • Where’s the work ethic?

I’ve been guilty of the same sort of prejudices.

Recently, my teenage daughter turned that all around for me. Less than one week after her 17th birthday, she reported to work for her first job: at 5 a.m. – on a school day! She’s lifeguarding at the neighborhood Y. The pool is outdoors. It’s January. We live in Phoenix. But still, it’s chilly in the morning, and on this morning it happens to be raining.

“Lifeguarding is not work,” some would say. “All they do is stand around and twirl a whistle.”

Having seen the effort she has put into it, I can now contest the previous statement. Lifeguarding is skilled labor at a minimum. Prior to even being granted an interview, she was required to give up two full weekends and two weeknights for the prerequisite training. She now knows every aspect of keeping others safe at the pool: first aid, CPR, dealing with panic, hypothermia and more. She paid a handsome sum out of her own pocket for the training with no hint of being reimbursed. She passed a series of in-class quizzes, plus two water tests, and a grilling of an interview with both her manager and the manager’s manager.

Today was her first day on the job. I was awakened at 4:15 a.m. by the sound of her getting ready. Although she’s pretty self sufficient, I got up to see if she needed any last minute help so she could scoot out the door on time. She was good. She had prepared everything she needed the night before: Clothes for work, clothes for school, her lunch, and gear for swim practice after school.

To say I am proud of her would be an understatement. But, the purpose of this post is not to brag about my daughter, although I could do so all day long. My hope is that you will join me in looking a little deeper into the plight of today’s youth. In many ways, they face far more challenges and obstacles than many of us did when we were growing up. Let’s show them our respect with words of encouragement and gratitude. Thank you!