Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Tale of Two Guys: Gallucci and Beaver in 2015

December 2015 is one of the months that I will never forget. It's one of my best rest days in a long time while battling many obstacles. The tale of two guys - one that has a passion for solar power, and the other that splits between zoo keeper by day and DJ by night. And the place is at Eastridge Mall in San Jose. So what is another way for me to stay safe and out of trouble? I tell my story in this blog on a December day of how I managed to have one of my friends meet another while still being with my brother and cousin.


It was on a day that I remembered that a Star Wars movie was coming out - and it started with a rather chilly December morning at my nest in San Martin. I remembered starting my day by doing minor chores and trips to shop for something in Morgan Hill. My brother and cousin agreed to head over to Round 1 Amusement, which is located on the second floor of Eastridge Mall - the same mall of where the three of us plan to see a Star Wars movie.

And so the "freeway" continued. I had one stop after another the previous several days - the day before this trip had 2 stops. The trip for me began at 2pm, as I had to fill up my fuel tank to maximum level at a Shell station near Bernal and Monterey Road about 14 miles later. I arrived at Round 1 Amusement just before 3pm, so I decided to begin playing both arcade and bowling games. The first 90 minutes consisted of bowling games challenging between myself, my brother, and my cousin.

The second phase consisted of playing arcade games before I had to head into the arcade shop and purchased green tea Kit-Kat bars and other snacks using the number of accumulated tickets on my red card before I got a black card. The red card is a standard version for players who only goes to Round 1 Amusement infrequently, while the black card is the upgraded version of the red card with more benefits.

As for the snacks, the green tea Kit-Kat bars is rarely seen in the United States - and only a very few select retailers have green tea Kit-Kat bars. The reason behind this is that while it is legal to obtain green tea Kit-Kat bars in the United States, the product is not designed to be marketed there. When the product is imported for retail in California, the consumer may obtain the green tea Kit-Kat bars at a reasonable price, but only at certain stores. Among the Asian specialty stores that I went to, such as Lion Supermarket (Tully/King only), 99 Ranch Market (San Jose, Milpitas, Dublin (CA), Cupertino, and most recently, Las Vegas, NV only), Manila Oriental Market (Evergreen), and Mitsuwa Marketplace (Saratoga Ave, San Jose), I recalled that Mitsuwa carries that product on a regular basis and the others to a lesser extent and sometimes even lesser.

My brother, cousin, and I had dinner at around 6pm at a restaurant located outside but within the Eastridge Mall area, but near Quimby Road. After dinner, it was back to the mall and Barnes & Noble store with some book exploration plus some sustained quiet time for the next hour before the Star Wars movie.


I had encounters with my brother's friends three different times; one each at Barnes & Noble and Round 1 Amusement - the other just before approaching the theater on the second floor just above the SolarCity booth. When I was inside the theater, I met up with John Beaver - but seconds later joined by Anthony Gallucci! I introduced them both using my own knowledge. This was the first meet between Gallucci and Beaver. John Beaver is a zoo keeper by day, meaning that he is referring to taking care of the animals at the Happy Hallow Park & Zoo in San Jose. Beaver also is a DJ during evening hours, of which he does DJ at venues around the Bay Area, of which he is an artist working for Libra Rising Music. Beaver does tell his story, of which he is a cancer survivor.

Anthony Gallucci on the other hand is a solar specialist at his favorite solar company, known as SolarCity. After the movie was over, in order to ask Gallucci about some of his accomplishments as a Regional Sales Manager (his current position), I had to part ways with my brother and cousin. Previously, Gallucci was an energy consultant, although he got upgraded to become a regional sales manager. He told me that his goal is to have a handful of workers and working as a team at many malls around the Bay Area. Although I will still see him from time to time, I will still chat about solar and perhaps write about my personal experience in future blogs.

Both John Beaver and Anthony Gallucci have contributed as one of the great examples of one important thing for me in my life - that is being reminded to stay out of trouble. I personally believe that both of them have the potential to grow in their respective fields. Sometimes, when I do tell my own story like this, it generally provides one more example of how I do stay safe and out of trouble.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

CHAK'S TAKE: The City of Gilroy - Build 4000 More Homes? And Effect on Homeless?

The battle between residents of Gilroy and San Martin and the city of Gilroy is far from over, given the fact that Gilroy plans to have 4000 new homes sometime in the future. The city of Gilroy passed a bill that allows the city to acquire more land in the area between Fitzgerald Avenue, Santa Teresa Blvd, and Monterey Road - a controversial idea that is panned by many Gilroy and San Martin residents like Robert Carerra for various reasons. Last time, I talked about how traffic in Morgan Hill would be impacted by the housing plan, particularly during the morning commute. But in this blog, traffic is not thing that is the problem - it's the homeless impact. This in turn picks up from where I left off in the last blog.


Scott Wagers, who is a pastor for the Community Homeless Alliance Ministry (CHAM), has attempted to help as many homeless people in Santa Clara County into affordable homes in Santa Clara County. However, finding a home anywhere in Santa Clara County may be tough in San Jose, even as more new homes are put up despite the number of homelessness have actually decreased in 2015 (Reference 1). Gilroy may be one of the locations Wagers could be considering, despite that many of the homeless prefers living closer to San Jose.

But with 4000 new homes proposed to be built comes a question on how many of them will be shelters for homeless people. That only Wagers could ask the City of Gilroy. I previously have attempted to contact the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill for inquiries and their thoughts on Gilroy's housing plans and the traffic impacts, but have not heard back as of so far. Furthermore, neither the city of Gilroy nor Morgan Hill has addressed whether they have any plans for additional housing for the homeless within the city limits, including those of the city of Gilroy's new housing plan.

None of the Gilroy's city council members nor the mayor has specified anything about the additional land other than the plans as indicated to the public, including those for the homeless. And there were either little or no such opportunity for people to voice their objections against expanded land use until it was too late. And even if Scott Wagers were to ask the city of Gilroy, he too would attempt to send an e-mail or put phone calls to the mayor.


As more people are moving to the southern end of Santa Clara County like Gilroy and Morgan Hill, the comparison between Gilroy and Morgan Hill in regards to expansion is largely different. In many parts of Morgan Hill, the expansion that I see is generally within the city limits, with more land ready for both business and residential housing along Butterfield Blvd between Sutter Blvd and Cochrane Road. However, the city of Gilroy is mainly relying on their attempts to expand their land beyond the city limits without any input from residents after my review of at least three sources.

With Gilroy's population at around 61,000 as of 2015, there are still unanswered questions of how the cities of both Gilroy and Morgan Hill will be dealing with both traffic congestion near their neighborhoods along U.S. 101 and homeless population in many other Santa Clara County cities like San Jose, Mountain View, and Palo Alto. As I have said in my previous blog, 101 is only configured to just three lanes in each direction and has continued to grow with little or no action from both Caltrans and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). The frustration over congestion has already been fed up for many residents and does wish that a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane was added sooner.

To me, the chances for the homeless population to be housed in new homes would only be less than 10%, due to a combination of both available housing and the controversial plan by the city of Gilroy. One of the reasons behind the chances is due to the fact that the fiscal cost to put the homeless in houses is staggering (Reference 2). It is likely that the fiscal cost could rise as the lack of new homes are also on the rise and San Jose's population could continue to grow beyond one million people in population. And this could disappoint Scott Wagers himself because the growing cost of housing could make putting homeless people to new homes or shelters could be harder.

Overall, the picture that I see in regards to Gilroy housing plans is very bleak not only due to opposition in traffic, but the question on homelessness as of so far. Gilroy and San Martin residents have long been in a huge tie-up with the city of Gilroy, and neither the battle between both homeless and local residents and Gilroy seem to rest - of which the war of words will likely continue. I will continue to keep my eye on Gilroy and give my take when warranted.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak


Reference 1: See Santa Clara County Point in Time Census & Survey, 2015 report.
Reference 2: See San Jose Mercury News report on the fiscal cost to deal with homelessness in Santa Clara County.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

CHAK'S TAKE: The City of Gilroy - Build 4000 More Homes? And effect on traffic in Morgan Hill?

30 minutes more of commute time between San Martin and San Jose State University? That is not what I may be thinking of in regards to the already growing traffic along one of the most congested corridors leading up to San Jose and points north. Back in March 2015, Gary Richards, better known as Mr. Roadshow, wrote an article in the Mercury News that has seen traffic jump by 37 percent. But there has been late word that plans by the city of Gilroy to build more housing units could jump traffic even more. So why are people divided over this proposal? And why could the city of Morgan Hill be concerned over increasing traffic on Monterey Road and Butterfield Blvd?


Let's face it this way - according to one article, the city of Gilroy has acquired more land that will range from the current city limits to the intersections of Monterey Road, Fitzgerald Avenue, and Santa Teresa Blvd, adding 721 acres. The city of Gilroy and the city's planning commission, as well as community members, are on opposite sides of the issue. Gilroy's current population at last check is just over 53,000 residents, and with acquired land, could expand to over 60,000 residents. Some opponents on the plan have said enough about the expansion, referring to the fact that farm plots will be taken away.


The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) handles congestion management, but they have yet to react to Gilroy's expansion announcement. But with Gilroy trying to expand it's acquisition of acreage, my concern is more on the traffic impacts the city of Morgan Hill could have, as traffic at times have been at a standstill even with the newly installed metering lights turned on. The year 2003 was the last time that Morgan Hill saw a huge expansion, with U.S. 101 expanding to four lanes in each direction between Cochrane Road and Bernal Road in South San Jose.

Traffic anchors who are familiar with the route, such as KSBW's Michelle Allen, KNTV traffic expert Mike Inouye, and most recently, KCBS radio traffic reporter Kim Wonderley saw the impacts when accidents occur along either 101, Monterey Road, or Santa Teresa Blvd between Morgan Hill and San Jose that creates a ripple effect. The most common prudent slowdown occurs between San Martin Ave and just after East Dunne Ave exits, when traffic is slowing down to as little as 15 miles per hour. Adding any accidents along 101 and traffic can turn traffic to a nightmare, slowing down to as little as 5 miles per hour (but no more than 10 MPH) on average.

Part of the problem with the slow traffic between San Martin and East Dunne exits along 101 is the current lane configuration. The original Monterey Road used to be part of U.S. 101 before the construction of U.S. 101 freeway bypass that opened to traffic in 1973. Traffic in each direction is currently only three lanes, and neither the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) nor Caltrans has any short-term plans to expand the freeway, as the recently installed metering lights between Gilroy and Morgan Hill is only one of the long-term plans along the corridor. However, 101 south of San Jose is only part of the long-term solution that is included in the Silicon Valley Express Lanes project. The only problem is that the short-term solution is to expand the freeway to as far south as Tennant Avenue exit, and not the high-occupancy lane (HOV) or express lanes that Gilroy residents would want from VTA. Out of all the onramps from the east side of 101, only Tennant Ave remains configured in a single lane without HOV.

Morgan Hill city streets that parallel near U.S. 101 like Butterfield Blvd, Monterey Road, Condit Road, and Murphy Avenue have occasionally experienced traffic congestion from the many times I've attempted to drive either directly to San Jose State University or to either Santa Teresa or Ohlone-Chynoweth light rail stations to catch a light rail to SJSU. Some people elect to drive on side roads as far north as either East Dunne Avenue or Cochrane Road to enter 101 northbound during the morning commute.

But the congested traffic is not limited to the morning commute despite the number of metering lights installed at each on-ramp between California State Route 85 and State Route 25. Even with the metering lights turned on between Gilroy and Morgan Hill, that has done little to relieve congestion. The Express Lane project still has plenty of unanswered questions about the needs of Gilroy commuters to San Jose and points northwards.


I was not the only one that was complaining about the morning commute along U.S. 101. There were other drivers that also voiced their frustrations as Butterfield Blvd to some drivers have turned the road to much like a Santa Clara County expressway, such as in the case of Heather Hays Ancheta. Ancheta also told me that some Gilroy city streets were congested, but not enough to be at the same level as Butterfield Blvd. Monterey Road between Leavesley Road and Butterfield Blvd is currently the only high-speed alternative to the main U.S. 101 based on speed limits. However, the maximum speed limit in Santa Clara County is only at 50 miles per hour, and none of Santa Clara County roads that I've been on besides state highways and freeways have posted speed limits of 55 miles per hour. Ancheta's husband is the commuter, and she remembers that it takes up to an hour between Gilroy and Milpitas, and more than two hours with accidents along the route.

Speaking of speed limits, California State Highway 152 (Pacheco Pass Highway) is among the few rural roads in Santa Clara County that have a posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour, and 65 miles per hour east of 156. Jenny Mosher told me in her complaint that her husband took three hours to commute from Gilroy to Cupertino. In addition to the morning commute, weekend and holiday commuters were not spared from what Mosher was seeing. She told me that Leavesley Road and New Ave were among the streets that drivers used to bypass the heavy traffic on 152 as a method to get to the 101 freeway. This is in part due to businesses and the Gilroy Premium Outlets that line between the Pacheco Pass Highway and Leavesley Road along Camino Arroyo and Arroyo Circle that parallel the freeway, which creates even more gridlock for those using Leavesley Road.

Another commuter, Mary Pires, commutes every weekday and sometimes on the weekend along U.S. 101 between Gilroy and Santa Clara. However, her commute time clocks between 90 minutes and 2 hours going to work, and at least 75 minutes coming home from work. I found for myself that driving along 101 can be a headache that extends from Bailey Avenue to Masten Avenue exit, depending on where Pires would get off from. Most drivers would rely on side roads such as Santa Teresa Blvd (later Hale Ave) and Monterey Road to bypass the backups. But my findings reveal that on some occasions, neither Monterey Road nor Hale Ave are spared from traffic jams between Live Oak and Tilton, causing some drivers to use Dougherty Ave in order to dodge traffic jams.


The worsening commute along U.S. 101 is questioning me on how the city of Morgan Hill plans to deal with the increasing traffic and the reaction that more residents are shifting from Santa Cruz county to either Gilroy, Hollister, San Martin, Morgan Hill, and beyond. The jump in traffic between Gilroy and San Jose puts U.S. 101 at a big risk of gridlock within the next 10 years if the trend does continue and the increase rate continuing to be stable, given that neither VTA nor Caltrans plan to expand the number of lanes within the next five years.

I attempted to make inquiries with the city of Morgan Hill and the city council regarding Gilroy's plan to put 4,000 more housing units plus expansion of land to near Masten Ave, as well as that impact to traffic in Morgan Hill. However, no response has been offered as of so far, and neither is the response to the city of Gilroy from Morgan Hill. Some of the questions I've asked also included whether Butterfield Blvd expansion to 3 lanes or expansion of left turn lanes to 2 are possibilities as a result of the Gilroy's housing plan. While Morgan Hill is not directly involved with Gilroy's housing plan, the traffic from the proposed housing unit in Gilroy may put more stress along Morgan Hill city streets that could have the city council chambers demanding answers from the Gilroy city council.


I was not the only student that was aware of the opposition plans by people who saw the proposal. Robert Carerra, whose family lives not far from where I reside in San Martin, told me in regards to the annexation plans that he was shocked. But in addition, he was one of only two speakers that mentioned the plan, adding the fact that U.S. 101 is unprepared for commuters from the new proposed 4,000-unit housing complex given the current three lanes in each direction.


Gilroy's plans for 4,000 housing units may spell some trouble for companies doing business in the city of Morgan Hill, but it's unrelated to stock prices or corporate management. Some businesses like San Mateo-based SolarCity have an office based out of Morgan Hill, which in SolarCity's case is near the intersection of Cochrane Road and Butterfield Blvd. However, SolarCity may have trouble getting out of their office to customers who request any service from them. The situation only gets worse when the Morgan Hill Unified School District's Sobrato High School has a school day. That part was observed by me at least once on my way to SJSU, and might have caused delays of up to 15 minutes for a SolarCity vehicle to reach a resident's house who requests any service from them. The only other part of the problem is that SolarCity does not have an office in San Benito, Monterey, or Santa Cruz counties, leaving the Morgan Hill office responsible to serve those areas until an office is set up.


But the overall picture puts businesses who either is based in or has an office in Morgan Hill on watch for any congestion that could have a ripple effect on the commute. Commuters typically must sit in traffic for at least 60 minutes going from Gilroy to San Jose and back. Add the housing and land acquisition to Gilroy's portfolio and it could equal disaster to commute times, likely to cause people to voice their frustrations over lane expansion delays and putting gridlock on U.S. 101 at an increasing risk.

EDITOR'S NOTE: There will be more to this take in a future blog, so please do look forward.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"Mister Tikhonov's Neighborhood" and Behind the Naming

This poem is divided into two parts:

1. A Line-by-line meaning for words or phrases that you may not know.
2. A short context of the meaning and where the name name came from.


Line Number: Meaning

3: "San Jose State Neighborhood" replicates the scene in a children's series known as Mister Rodgers Neighborhood, of which Samuel Soldofsky acts as the main character. He acts as a host of a fictional television series as he is heavily influenced by Fred Rogers' personality. Unlike episodes in Mister Rodgers Neighborhood, the "make-believe" scene takes place in a fictionalized version of San Jose.

6: Samuel Soldofsky is a fictional character, who hosts the event. He switches his voice to act like the character named Tikhonov Soldofsky in "Make-believe" mode.

8, 9, 11, 12: The characters are mentioned, but Samuel forgot to mention two other characters in the scene. He opts to leave them out because they are minor characters.

14, 15: This line requires a pause between 5 to 10 seconds at the end of line 14 before proceeding to line 15.

17: Maria English is a "make-believe" character that has visited Gilroy, and is a friend of Shamrock.

18: Shamrock Gilroy Miller is a "make-believe" character that knows the streets of both Gilroy and Morgan Hill.

19: "Gavilan" freeway in "make-believe" refers to the present-day U.S. 101 that runs near the Gavilan College area in Gilroy.

29: The line refers to Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Gilroy.

30: This line refers to the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival.

31: Junipero Serra, former Spanish priest.

45: Tenchi in Tokyo: a 1997 anime series that starred Tenchi Muyo, who left his native homeland for the metropolitan area of Tokyo.

46: Rinda McMitchell is a "make-believe" character that specializes in music. She fell in love with the opening theme of Tenchi in Tokyo and wanted to make her own music using the same sounds.

57: "Big chef" in the line refers to Chef Brock Mayo, who "Brock's" name is taken from the influence of Pokemon character named Brock.

72: Pastor Antoni Christian Gallucci is a "make-believe" minor character who gave Tikhonov prayers.

73: Bean Belmonte is a "make-believe" minor character that greeted Tikhonov, who then directs him to Pastor Antoni.

84, 85: Like lines 14 and 15, at the end of line 84, this requires a 10-second pause (for applauses, cheers, etc.) before proceeding to line 85. 

98: "Looks like I'm blasting off again" refers to a common phrase whenever Pokemon characters Jessie, James, and Meowth are defeated as a result of attacks by the protagonists, usually by Pikachu's electric attacks ordered by Ash Ketchum.


This sonnet is comprehensive, and I decided to write something on topic that incorporates elements from some of my favorite themes as part of my mission to showcase what I have learned over the course of the semester in writing poetry.

I decided to write a fictional network of sonnet poems that incorporates a bigger set number of lines near 100, but no less than 98. There were a few names that were going through my head, including some American and British poets like William Shakespeare. I've taken a lot of elements from anime and people who I often heard of, as well as the instructors at San Jose State University that have taught me and learning valuable lessons from them.

For instance, when I heard the word "Tikhonov," it usually refers to the article read in the San Jose Mercury News on a Russian hockey player named Viktor Tikhonov, who speaks flawless English and Russian due to the fact that he was raised in Los Gatos. In order to maintain my use of first or last names that I wanted to use, I was forced to think outside the box and come up with other names (either first or last) without actually using the first or last names of actual people. For example, if I want to use "Tikhonov," I cannot use "Viktor" in order to not duplicate the names of real people.

A make-believe sonnet poem does not use actual names of people, but uses a random number of sonnets in multiples of 14 lines that include both the beginning and the end. The minimum number of lines that I usually require is 98, although the number of syllables are optional. Coming up with fictional names was the most difficult part of my written work in the poem. However, I hope that the poem is one of the samples that incorporates the theme of people's favorite theme.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Frustration with Traffic in Downtown San Jose: Westin San Jose (Saint Clare) to be Part of the Blame

Nightmare. That is the the theme for the huge traffic congestion along many of downtown San Jose city streets. Traffic on a Saturday night was severely congested along Market Street, San Carlos Street, First Street, San Fernando Street, Second Street, among others. Some drivers think that alternate routes would work, but that was not the case, as I watched driver after driver trying to navigate downtown San Jose city streets.

One of the notorious traffic congestion that happened tonight was near the Westin Saint Claire, which I saw traffic had to funnel down to the left of the two lanes (not including the left turn lane) as I saw one vehicle after another parked in the right lane just before the signal at Market Street. As I circled many times in an attempt to look for parking in downtown San Jose, there was no escape from the brutal congestion no matter the street that drivers were on, and I was not immune to the congestion in downtown San Jose.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) bus routes were also not immune to the stop-and-go line of cars. Some of the streets, for instance, are among what VTA use regularly such as the pile-up from almost Reed Street to at least Santa Clara Street, Second Street from St. John to Reed, San Fernando Street between Delmas Avenue and Fourth Street, and Santa Clara Street between Seventh Street and Almaden Blvd. I estimated at least a 20-minute backup in the affected streets, if not more.

In some cases, the streets were in a total gridlock that there were no San Jose Police Department officers available to enforce various intersections that I saw was humiliating. The intersections that had the most problems to my take included San Carlos and First Street, San Salvador and First Street, San Salvador and Market Street, and First and William Street. Those intersections were very congestive and at times, cars were blocking intersections. I have not confirmed whether other intersections in downtown San Jose had problems with intersections.

But the one that I should award with the worst place to have congestion is northbound Market Street just before the approach to Market Street because too many cars were blocking the right lane. There were numerous times that traffic on northbound Market Street were stopped for at least two signal cycles. It is not known whether the Westin San Jose (Saint Claire) knew about the congestion that caused traffic to back up to almost the south end of Market Street.

The southbound side of Market Street were not immune to congestion south of San Carlos Street while traffic was severely congested between Julian and Reed. This was the longest stretch of congestion apart from a few breaks north of San Fernando. But nevertheless, both sides of Market Street were tight and drivers were very frustrated.

Christmas in the Park is subject to congestion at any time, but especially when special events occur - therefore, the VTA holiday train does not run during those times. Along Almaden Blvd between Santa Clara and Balbach, traffic was not as bad as those on Market, but still slow. Even on the west side of Highway 87, Delmas Avenue showed red and orange sensors, indicating slow traffic, but sluggish at times.

San Jose McEnery Convention Center's parking garage was holding a private party, and therefore was off limits to drivers looking to park for a small fee. That was only part of the reason why Market Street was severely congested. And for those drivers along San Carlos Street attempting to make a right turn to Market Street, any alternate route beyond Almaden Blvd was futile.

At the venue for Christmas in the Park, known as Plaza de Cesar Chavez, there were plenty of slow traffic. It was so bad that San Jose parking enforcement officers had to place cones along the road so that drivers won't make horrible mistakes by suddenly changing lanes. This indicates big business for hotels such as the Fairmont San Jose and the Four Points.

It is unknown whether any of the hotels were following traffic rules as drivers are trying to avoid parked cars. In regards to transit, it is unknown whether VTA has any plans to use detours for a huge jam along the affected streets. The pics that follow this blog show the congestion in downtown San Jose. I'll try to update this blog if there is any response.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak