Thrive Rescue Home savior sex-trafficking victims in Thailand

The warm rays of the rising sun hit the jungle landscapes of Thailand, where five girls between the ages of seven and 15 sit on the beach.

They followed the 300-yard semi-dirt trail from their home in Pattaya to watch the golden sphere peek into view.

It is Easter Sunday on the mainland of Thailand.

About 8,000 miles away, the stage at River of Life Christian Church in Santa Clara is alive and beating. Music ranging from classical to rock to pop resonates from the speakers.

A captivating spoken word is delivered.

Two dance groups express themselves via graceful choreography and stomping to the fast paced tempo of “Jai Ho."

This is no ordinary talent show. This benefit show is raising money for the girls enjoying the sunrise on the beach in Pattaya.

The five girls on the beach all have something in common — they have been sex trafficked and they are not alone...


Claiming the Road

Riding for a Bike friendly city

The bicycle has become a common sight in San Jose and is showing no signs of braking. The number of bike clubs and cycle tour clubs is growing. The San Jose Bike Party consistently draws crowds of 2,000 riders in the summer months.

The high-tech influence of Silicon Valley does not seem to touch this recreational sport, with fixed-gear bikes—one-geared bicycles—becoming a trend among the younger riders. San Jose’s enthusiasm for the bike is not new. Bicycle racing is in San Jose’s blood.

According to an article on Silicon Valley De-Bug, San Jose locals won cycling national championships and participated in the Olympics from the 1890s to the 1990s. Some San Jose bicycle racers included the Perez brothers and who raced at the Garden City Velodrome, a bicycle track, where Lincoln High School stands today.

A film on the history of San Jose said, Race Street in San Jose was named after the bike races that took place at the location between 1859 and 1901. Carlos Babock, an organizer of the San Jose Bike Party, said bike racing became so popular, bets would be placed on the outcome of the races. The dirt track would eventually be paved with Henry Ford introducing the Ford Model T in 1908.

As cars became more popular, so did paved roads. San Jose like the rest of the country would shift its focus to automobiles.

“When I first came to San Jose I remember it was advertised, ‘Come to Downtown San Jose. We have 23,000 parking spaces,’” said Babock, who moved to San Jose in 1996.

Babock has been car-free for the past 10 years in the Silicon Valley.

The city of San Jose created its first plans towards becoming the most bike friendly city in the US in 2009.

According to an April 2015 news release, Paul B. Smith, a San Jose Department of Transportation official said, “San Jose has a long love affair with the bicycle. Our aim now is to build on this legacy to encourage bicycling everyday for all while helping to improve health, fitness and the environment.”

San Jose’s Bike Plan 2020 aims to have 5 percent of all trips in San Jose be made by bike. Currently, 1 percent of trips in greater San Jose are by bicycle. Downtown San Jose is noticeably better, with 4 percent of trips in that area made by bike.

“You would think San Jose is perfect for cycling,” Babock said. The positives of the Silicon Valley for cycling are the general size is 20 miles by 7 miles and flat. The down side for bicycles are the confusing layout of streets and the blocks are long.

“There is a rule nowadays with cycling advocates, cycling should be safe from 8-80. Children of 8 years old and adults of 80 years old. You don’t see a lot of people riding that feel safe riding on San Jose streets,” Babock said.

The Bike Plan 2020 will try to make the streets more bicycle-friendly by adding 70 miles of bikeways, more bike parking, updating the bike-friendly code and policy and partner with programs that encourage everyday use of bicycles. Bikeways will take the form of colored bike lanes, colored cement and shared lane markers with wayfinding signs and marking systems. Some San Jose businesses fear losing customer traffic and oppose these measures.

“The city is making great progress to … raise the level of bike culture and being a bike-friendly city,” Babock said.

Despite the challenges, the bike culture is still thriving in San Jose.

“The bike culture is something we all go through as bike riders … We are more than likely in the 10th largest city of the country to run into each other in some form," said bicycle rider and San Jose native Brandon Alvarado. "It’s a small bike culture. Big city, small culture.”



Scoring Big

Making connections thorugh pinball

Written by George Tanner

The chorus of the beeps and boops will be music to the ears of California Extreme attendees this weekend. The 19th annual pinball and coin-operated games convention will fill the hall of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Santa Clara with over 500 games and several thousand people. California Extreme, like any other event, had humble beginnings.

Ken Chaney, TJ Beyer and about a dozen others entertained themselves at gaming nights at a pizza place. Chaney would bring a skateboarding game called "720 Degrees." The pizza place’s pinball machines would be used. Others would bring their own games as well. The group of gamers decided to take their small event a step further in 1997.

That was the year California Extreme was born. The first convention was in an abandoned library in the Town and Center—present day Santana Row. The library housed 200 attendees in its minimal air-conditioned space. Chaney described being roasted during the event.

After a few years California Extreme was moved to an air-conditioned arcade. The San Jose Convention Center held the next year’s event. The convention quickly outgrew the convention center and moved to its final location, the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, six years later.

California Extreme continues to grow. The number of people pre-registering for the convention increased by 40 percent this year. Chaney and Beyer bring about over 100 games between them. Mark Birsching, the director of the convention, brings about 50 games to the event. There are a number of other exhibitors who bring about a dozen games each.

As California Extreme continues to grow more and more people are needed to keep the convention running every year.

Michelle Morris, the volunteer coordinator of the convention said, “No one gets paid to run the show. It is all processed by volunteers bringing in their own equipment, collections and people that help out with the show.”

Required jobs for the convention prior to the show are loading and unloading games from the trucks, plugging games in, game testing, setting up the registration area and stuffing envelopes. Jobs on the days of the convention are taking money, directing people to the bathrooms, guarding the doors and putting wristbands on people.

The dedicated group of volunteers include families, some as young as 6-years-old.

“I really enjoy the fact that we get to show them to the younger generation, such as my 6-year-old son," volunteer Jonathan Koople said. "This is something he would never get to experience as a young person again because arcades are simply very rare now.”

Even those who volunteer by themselves can discover a new family among the volunteer group.

“We do see each other outside of the show too,” volunteer Dan Amrich said.

Morris said people bought pizzas, pastries and other treats for the volunteer team.

There is room for more in the California Extreme volunteer family. Morris would like more people to get involved that are willing to be in charge of certain departments of the volunteer staff.

While California Extreme’s goal is to bring awareness to older styles of gaming, what matters most is for the people playing the games to be a family.


Shaking Up San Jose

Written by George Tanner

San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper, Mirko Stojanovic, hung up his cleats 40 years ago. At that time, the San Jose Earthquakes were leading the North American Soccer League in fan attendance having sold out each of their previous season’s games.

The Earthquakes played at the Spartan Stadium, which held 17,000 fans. Other teams in the league played in huge National Football League stadiums and only drew about 3-4 thousand fans. Gary Singh, author of "The San Jose Earthquakes: a seismic soccer legacy," a book on the history of the San Jose Earthquakes, described the situation as, “pretty pathetic to see it and play it in that environment.”

The reason for the decline in soccer fans along the west coast was the decline of the NASL. The once 17-team strong contingent was reduced to nine teams. The process of rebuilding the fan base began in Seattle, Los Angeles and the Bay Area. San Jose was ripe for picking.

“They sold the entire sport to a general public in San Jose that had never had a professional sport here before, so they were ready to embrace the concept,” Singh said. "The responsibility of advertising the Earthquakes trickled all the way down to the players. Players would attend youth soccer practices, come over to fans homes for dinner and juggle soccer balls in shopping malls. This environment enticed Stojanovic."

“I came here because of the soccer and the Earthquakes are the team I identify with,” Stojanovic said.

The years following Stojanovic’s retirement saw the other soccer teams on the West Coast surpass San Jose’s number of fans. Even during their championship years, 2001 to 2005, Singh said the Earthquakes were, “just trying to keep the lights on.”

Any spoils that could be gained from the exciting championship years were thrown away when the Earthquakes moved to Houston in 2005. The Earthquakes and the city of San Jose were unable to come to agreement on facility issues. San Jose was promised an opportunity to claim an expansion team later.

The Earthquakes made it back to San Jose in 2007. The team called Buck Shaw stadium at Santa Clara University their new temporary home. The stadium had to be built to hold up to 10,000 fans. Eight years later, Avaya Stadium opened its doors, welcoming a sold out crowd capacity of 18,000. “It is beautiful. I went to over there when they had opening against LA…It is so close to the field and the players…It is fun to watch a game in that kind of environment,” Stojanovic said.

Stojanovic can identify similarities between the Spartan Stadium he left back in 1974 and present day Avaya Stadium. Maybe that is why the first games played at Avaya Stadium this season have been sold out. The Earthquakes could be onto another heyday of soccer in San Jose.


Archery Team hits bull's-eye for attracting students

Written by George Tanner on May 13, 2014.

Standing 25 meters from her target, Elizabeth Clay-Ramos prepares to hit her mark: a 12.2 centimeter gold ring. With elbows held high she raises her arrow to her chin and stares down the indoor range. Her fingers let the string slip past, launching the arrow toward the bull’s-eye. The arrowhead digs into the paper target centimeters away from the aloof gold ring.

Clay-Ramos, a junior psychology major, was introduced to when she was seven while at summer camp. Growing up she lived close to the campground, which allowed her to make many visits throughout the year to the archery range. She even volunteered her time as an archery instructor counselor in 2012.

“I was able to do that all the time, which was nice for an entire summer,” she said.

Upon arriving at San Jose State University, she was disappointed to learn the school did not have an archery team so she created the Spartan Archery Society, a SJSU archery team. She pieced together the insurance, money, an off-campus supplier and a club adviser for the SJSU archery team at the beginning of the Spring 2014 semester.

Her efforts to stir up interest in a college archery team were aided Hollywood’s influence.

Clay-Ramos sees a direct correlation between student interest in archery and releases of cinematic films, like Hunger Games, and television shows, such as Game of Thrones and Revolution.

“…archery is not a well-known thing and when people see Katniss and Meridith from Brave…they think [they can] pick up a bow they will be able to shoot right away,” Clay-Ramos said. “I definitely think…the media is…making it a lot more popular among people [my] age.”

Kathy Burga, the SJSU archery class professor, agreed that the popularity of archery in Hollywood affects the popularity of archery among students. She compared archery in Hollywood to John Travolta when was on Saturday Night Fever. She said the line-dancing craze took off shortly afterwards.

Although there are pros about the rise in popularity of archery, there are also cons in the way the sport is being advertised. “I don’t think people realize how much… practice it takes to be a good archer,” Clay-Ramos said.

Being a good archer means being a master of details.

“It takes learning form…There is a little point where hold your breath before you let the arrow go… how you place your fingers on the string, how you hold the bow and not turning your wrist in or out. All of those little details have to be looked at,” Burga said.

According to Burga’s syllabus, students enrolled in the class are required to know the parts of the bow, archery etiquette and proper technique and safety rules. There are also require to know how to properly maintain the bow and how to analyze shooting results.

After mastering the small details Burga moves to novelty shots like hitting balloons, fake animals and playing tic-tac-toe.

Clay-Ramos claimed the bow itself could cost a couple thousand dollars.

"Team equipment can be costly as well. Clay-Ramos saves money by sticking with a cheap, basic, wooden recurve bow until she improves and upgrades.

If anyone wants to be the next Hawkeye or Katniss, and they are up to the challenges of archery, they should take the class and join the Spartan Archery Society.


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