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  • Romero reaches presidential status at Bank of America

    Find your passion. Think outside the box.Those are pieces of advice given by Bank of America’s Adriana Kong Romero, who at just 35 years old has achieved the position as Tucson Market President – making her one of the youngest market presidents in the company.Romero was appointed to her position as president about 18 months ago, but her story with Bank of America dates back 16 years earlier, when she worked as a teller while attending the University of Arizona for a degree in finance. Tucson-born and raised in Douglas, Romero progressed through the ranks, working on both the consumer and business sides of the spectrum.“Banking has always been something I liked. I sort of grew up with it,” said Romero. “It’s interesting to see the different aspects of banking – not just on the consumer retail side but also within other departments, and how those help our clients and customers.”In her role as market president, Romero’s responsibilities are vast but include developing and maintaining business relationships in Southern Arizona, with a focus on companies drawing in revenues between $5 and $50 million. 

  • Tucson Local Media’s Give to Win contest

    Here is your chance to win a variety of prizes in the name of helping those less fortunate during the holiday season. All you have to do is get into the giving spirit, as The Explorer and Tucson Local Media have teamed up with Interfaith Community Services (ICS) for a second year.The Explorer is currently collecting donations of new unwrapped toys, new clothes, food donations or cash. Every time you bring in a donation to The Explorer office, you will receive a raffle ticket, and automatically be entered into a drawing for an iPad Mini and other prizes. Participants will receive one ticket per trip.Donations will be accepted at the office located at 7225 N. Mona Lisa Road, Suite 125. 

  • Scotch or bourbon? Scotch is the choice until spring

    I hope that my beloved bourbon is not getting a complex, but this time of year it’s the scotch that seems to be more frequently earning my favor.Perhaps it’s the comforting smokiness of the peat that goes so well with a comfortable pair of slippers and a roaring fire. Maybe it’s the vision of that age-old distilling process, where the malted barley is heated shortly after it starts to germinate.Call it what you will, but the single malt is a seasonal expression for me, and this is the season when it sings.But with several thousand brands sold all over the world, how is one to know one scotch from the other?Rather than book a trip to Edinburgh for answers, I simply scheduled an appointment with Aaron DeFeo, resort mixologist at the Casino del Sol Resort, who has curated an impressive 120-selection scotch menu at the resort’s PY Steakhouse, 5655 W. Valencia Road.DeFeo says that differences among scotches are as stark as the regions in Scotland where they’re produced, and he took me on a tasting tour to better understand their unique characteristics.

  • It takes time to accurately count ballots

    When singers finish their performances on “American Idol,” viewers can vote for their favorite contestant over the next 24 hours via text message, Facebook, mobile apps, the Internet and by telephone.  Votes are tallied and the winner is announced the next day.  Pretty easy.Some Arizonans have cited American Idol’s vote tallying when complaining about the slow pace of ballot counting in the past few elections.  Comparing the casting of a ballot in a free and fair election with a television program is unfortunate.Voting for an American Idol contestant wouldn’t be so quick and easy if all of the people casting a ballot had to prove their identity and that they hadn’t already voted and that they voted in the correct location. On “American Idol,” fans can vote up to 50 times. That’s a little different than one person, one vote.Pima County has numerous safeguards and security built into our voting system. We ensure everyone who is eligible to vote and who wants to can do so and that his or her vote is counted and secure.In times past, general elections were held on the first Tuesday in November and voters turned out that day to a polling place in or near their neighborhood to cast ballots. The ballots were counted and winners announced that night.Times have changed. The vast majority of voters now prefer to vote an early ballot (75 percent in Pima County in last month’s elections) – receiving their ballot in the mail about a month before Election Day, filling it out at their leisure, and mailing it back before Election Day.

  • Have you given up?

    Remember the song, “Is That All There Is?” It’s been recorded by many artists, but Peggy Lee made it a major popular hit in 1969.  The lyrics were adapted from the story by Thomas Mann called “Disillusionment.” In her inimitable style, Ms. Lee recaptured the memories of the burning building from which her father saved her, the circus with “something missing”, falling in love “and then he went away.” She also explains why, if that’s how she feels, she won’t just end it all - because death will only be a disappointment too. Her refrain: “If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing, let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is.”It’s a haunting song and all the more so because there’s apparently no happy ending. We’ve all been there— knocked around by life and defeated by failure, disappointment and disillusionment. But wait. Psychologists tell us disappointment is part of life and necessary for human development. If we aren’t disappointed, we often don’t have motivation to grow.Henry David Thoreau wrote the perfect prescription: “If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” 

  • Open enrollment is now under way

    With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is a great time to pause and reflect on the many things we are thankful for and at the top of my list is my family’s good health. Last year began an important step to make this possible for more people as part of the Affordable Care Act. Last November, affordable health insurance plans were made available through the Federal Marketplace and Arizona expanded the state’s Medicaid program for low-income individuals and families. In Arizona, the number of people who enrolled in either a Medicaid or Marketplace health plan totaled more than 265,000. Of that number, nearly 70,000 live in Pima County. This is great news for those families. Many community organizations are gearing up to help members of our community to enroll in a health plan and a full list of local help can be found at www.pima.gov/aca. As open enrollment nears, there are a couple of things I’d like us all to remember:Enrollment is from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15. If you choose to not enroll in a health plan, you are responsible to pay a penalty when you file your income taxes and each year the penalty increases.Some health plans may be changing the benefits and monthly rates; check with your health plan to make sure it is the best choice for you.Arizona premiums are among the lowest in the country.Last year as much as 77 percent of people who signed up for a health plan received financial assistance to help offset the cost of the premium. Single adults who previously didn’t qualify for AHCCCS were able to enroll. We are making headway in Pima County- the percentage of uninsured people for 2013 was 17 percent. After last year’s open enrollment the number of uninsured people dropped to 10 percent. There will be 13 health plans available this open enrollment period, reflecting new and more options for folks.

  • Plants of the Holy Land in Tucson

    This time of year is holy to many religions, celebrating as it does the turning of the world from short dark days to longer ones filled with light. As many of us turn our thoughts to events that occurred long ago and half a world away, I thought I might address a topic that has long fascinated me: plants of the Holy Land that can be grown here in Tucson.You could start you collection at this time of year with a living Jerusalem pine. Locally it is commonly called Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), and often sold as a living Christmas tree. (Aleppo was the site of some heavy duty Crusader battles.) The pine grows to around 40 feet tall, with a loose open top. Pinus halepensis was used in the floors of Solomon’s palace and is found in the flooring and cross beams of ancient Mediterranean ship decks. The Jerusalem pine is found throughout the Judean Mountains, including around and in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. If you don’t appreciate pines, perhaps you could plant another common Holy Land evergreen tree, the carob. Cerotonia siliqua is in the same family as the mesquite tree, only it never sheds its leaves, and it provides a deep dense shade, plus deliciously chocolate-like edible fruit. With a mature size of 30 feet tall by 30 feet wide, carob is not the tree for a narrow patio. To see a few beautiful specimens of this plant, take a stroll around the U of A campus. For exact location, use arboretum.arizona.edu and click on “find trees.” Cyclamens, the beautiful flowers with heart-shaped leaves offered alongside poinsettias this year, are also a Holy Land plant. They are actually bulbs that spend most of their life underground, hiding from the hot desert sun. In their native lands they hide on rocky hillsides and come out for a few glorious weeks in March and April after the winter rains. You can try planting your bulbs after the flowers fade, but they have been forced to bloom early for the industry, and may not survive.Incidentally, the Holy Land, as I am using it here, includes Israel and parts of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Basically it’s the lands at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Biogeographers call it an Eastern Mediterranean Climate.  This type of climate is divided into the rainy season, from November to March, and the dry season, from May to September, with two transition months. The extended summer dry season is fairly tough on plants. But that makes them ideal for our area.More on Holy Land plants next year. I will close with best wishes to you and yours for holidays and a new year filled with peace and joy.

  • It’s no secret: Gaslight’s “Secret Santa” a hit

    Someone once asked me what my favorite thing about Gaslight Theatre is.I asked them how much time they had.That couldn’t be truer than of the playhouse’s newest comedic gem, “The Secret Santa,” which debuted last week and runs through Jan. 4.Set in the 1960s, the play revamps the age-old tale of Santa Claus with a modern twist – his sleigh has broken down in the Town of Merryville – but that’s not the real dilemma.The Cogsworth Toy Factory is under siege by its owner, CC Cogsworth (Brian Hale) and manager, Barkely Simpson (Todd Thompson), who together plot to halt toy production in order to launch a potentially more lucrative lawnmower factory. Initially unaware of the devious plan, the spirited toymakers are caught off-guard when they discover management’s true motives, and things look grim for the factory workers and Merryville alike. The potential shutdown could mean Christmas passes by as just another day.

  • Tucson Symphony Orchestra to perform Disney classic

    Ask any music connoisseur and they will tell you, compositions are meant to be experienced in the flesh. The modern advancements of iPods, try as they might, simply cannot do justice to the enchantment of a live performance – the way a photograph is not telling of the expansive beauty within a Tucson sunset. This is even more true with the orchestra. There is a carnal syncopation with the soul as wood and brass fuse together to create a symphonic wall of sound. The Tucson Symphony Orchestra is well aware of the magic within a live spectacle, which is why they have decided to take one of cinema’s greatest musical accomplishments and perform it live at the Tucson Music Hall. As part of its “Superpops!” series, the orchestra will be performing Disney’s iconic “Fantasia” live in concert over the holiday weekend.Guest conductor Kietaro Harada will be taking the helm for two performances. Behind the players, an enormous high definition screen will display fan favorites such as “Nutcracker Suite” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from the original 1940 Disney milestone. But the night does not end there. After the orchestra finishes with the eight original shorts from “Fantasia”, they will also perform the entire sequel, “Fantasia 2000.”  The “Superpops!” series is part of a broader vision that blends popular and diverse music entertainers with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. After the orchestra performs the cinematic staple that is “Fantasia”, they will move on to other avenues of music. On Feb. 7 and Feb. 8 the orchestra will hold the “Ultimate Symphonic Rock Show”, which will include music from The Moody Blues, Peter Gabriel, Jethro Tull, Electric Light Orchestra, and David Bowie. On Feb. 28 and March 1 the Orchestra will perform with The Texas Tenors, a vocal group that gained notoriety after appearing on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”. The group blends country, gospel, classical, and Broadway styles of music. Their debut album, “Country Roots-Classical Sound” was the first album to be number one on both the country and classical music charts. The final leg of the four-part “Superpops!” series will feature child phenom Ethan Bortnick on March 28 and March 29. The 12 year old is the youngest performer to headline his own international tour with over 200 concerts. Bortnick is a composer, pianist, and entertainer, playing some familiar melodies such as “Rock Around the Clock”, “Lean On Me”, and “Crocodile Rock”. Bortnick’s performances have raised over $30 million for children’s charities. 

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