Saturday, December 31, 2005

Gravity: Not Just a Good Idea....

Albuquerque, I have some good news on the Darwin front. It seems we are not alone in proving our collective unevolved stupidity. I'm talking about the firing guns at midnight thing for New Year's Eve. A quick page or two of Googling shows the practice in Chicago, Fresno, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles and, as Dave Barry points out (thanks to whichever ABQ Journal blog entry pointed out that Dave has a blog, yeah!) South Florida. And that's just in this gun crazy country.

Still, this sure sign that Intelligent Design may not be quite intelligent enough isn't made any easier by the sheer fact that there are incredibly stupid people elsewhere on Earth. Come to the South Valley of Albuquerque around 11:50 P.M. tonight and you'll leave (dead or alive) with the sure aural knowledge that the SV has more than its share of drunks with a poor grasp of physics and fully automatic weapons.

Some folks advise, as Dave Barry points out, that the Science-deprived direct the guns downward instead of up when firing. My personal suggestion is to speed up the Darwinian process. Point them at each other and at the shooters themselves. This takes care of the problem on many levels, and besides the revelers were probably out of Old Milwaukee anyway.

Celebrate well tonight, have fun, dance between the falling bullets. See you in 2006....only 301 days until Heather v. Patsy...I can hardly wait.

Breaking/Developing Time-Wasting Web Surf Update: I've been spending far too much time this early afternoon checking out NPOVs (Neutral Point-of-View Violations) at Wikipedia, and trying to find the most absurdly controversial 'pedia entry subject. So far my favorite is "Pooh's Hunny Hunt", a ride at a Disneyland, Tokyo. I have no idea why this is considered controversial, but I did get motion sickness reading the ride description. My 2nd choice so far is the entry for the "Association for Renaissance Martial Arts" which includes the hyper-sensitive mega-contentious phrase "Director John Clements has been called the 'most controversial person in the Western Martial Arts community'". Now that's saying something. I don't know what the hell it is, but it is saying something. Something evidently very important to bearded British guys considered too geeky for membership in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Again, the site is Wikipedia's NPOV page...hours of free 'pedia infotainment (and possibly misinfotainment) there. Maybe we could invent a new form of Fictionary/Balderdash for New Year's Eve where instead of a big-ass word in the dictionary you could pick a Wikipedia NPOV entry and either guess just what the hell the organization/person/thing does, or what the organization/person/things terribly important controversy is. Just an idea for those NYE parties tonight before the drinks kick in and things are a bit slow.

Okay, off to Kurosawa's Seven Samurai at the Guild. My butt is hurting just thinking of 3 hours and 26 minutes of Guild seating time, but it's gonna hurt so cinematically good!

Friday, December 30, 2005

A Meditation Upon Cell Phones

The New Mexican reports that SF police have written 1,898 citations for drivers using cell phones. Unfortunately the penalty is not death, merely $101. I'm telling you, if SF just took one or two of these violators to the plaza for a public be-handing (that's cutting off the hands...what do they call it in Saudi Arabia?) the only violators would be the cocaine level addicts like those two off-duty police officers in Espanola. And yes we all know cocaine level cell phone addicts. I propose that NM spend some of the supposed gas/oil windfall on a set of regional cell phone recovery centers, 12 steps and all...or a series of public be-handings, either one works for me.

Cell phones. I'm trying to think of a technological advance in the last 100 years I despise more, but I'm drawing a blank. Drum machines...okay, drum machines are right up there. Muzak, now that I think about it. Speaking of muzak...why is it considered perfectly acceptable for all offices and restaurants to play absolutely crappy music (Christmas especially) all the time? Terrible music, grandmas getting run over by reindeer and worse. Yet, if one, say me for instance, asks the waitress to either change the station or turn it down I am looked upon as a social aural leper ruining the good times of all the patrons who really, really, really want to hear "Baby I'm a Want You" by Bread.

Okay, cell phones have some competition, but if I were in charge....

Since we haven't been using our civil liberties anyway, the Bush Administration has made it an easy leap to living in Nepal for me. What's this got to do with cell phones? Well, back in March King Gyanendra (he's the Bush with better monarchial robes and an Atari Pong-based NSA) , cutoff all the cell phones in the country. Seems they were being used to set up protests against his government. No mention if they were being used while turning left at intersections without using turn signals driving Chevy Surburbans down Nepal's many ten lane intervillage highways.

I, for one, am all for public protests of civil liberty depriving monarchs (e.g. George W. Bush), but have to applaud King Gyanendra for his action regarding cell phones. Somebody had to do something, and engineers don't seem to be working on alternative ideas such as my "Get Smart Cone of Silence" for use with cell phones in public places like the 53 Isleta bus, where in our technologically-deprived non-"Cone of Silence" society I am forced to listen to one-sided conversations like (actual paraphrased overheard spiel of 12/27/05):

"You've lied to me, and now I don't believe you and I'm not coming home. (pause) No, I'm sleeping at my Mother's. (pause) No, you've lied to me again and again, and I don't believe you anymore, no listen to me, the kids aren't coming home, too. (pause) I'm on the bus. (voice rising to levels literally audible by Echelon satellites circling the Earth above Isleta Blvd and Barcelona) You never stop lying to me."

Alright, I just tried to find the official term for the public cutting off of one's hands, and found this quote at Amnesty International from a Saudi Islamic Sharia law enforcement executioner.

"...for me it is more difficult to cut off a hand than to carry out an execution, because executions are done momentarily by the sword and the person leaves this life. By contrast, severing a hand demands more courage, especially because you are cutting off the hand of someone who will remain alive afterwards, and also you have to cut it off at a specific joint and use your skill to make sure that cutting implement stays in position. As I said, it is much more difficult for me to cut off someone's hand than to execute them, both in terms of carrying out the penalty itself and in terms of my own feelings."

I also found out that amputations like this are violations of Article 5 of the United Declaration of Human Rights. Okay, I've calmed down now and kinda see the point of this "human rights" thing. No public be-handings.

But I've looked pretty hard and the Universal Declaration doesn't say anything about this:

Not exactly anyway. Even better, we put a cell phone in their hand while they are in the stocks. Or is that the pillory? You get the point. Good times, medieval 'bro, good times.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Demonic Children and Other Political Realities

As avid readers of this blog know, and yes I am laughing while typing "avid readers", I am still figuring out who I'm likely to support in the 2008 Presidential race. I can, however, tell you my least favorite candidate this go round. Least favorite to the point that prolonged staring at the creepy photo above from his web page irrevocably convinces me that the demonically smiling kid in red is in fact Damian from The Omen.

You can find out more of Sam Brownback's delusional view of himself, and/or find out what a scumbag he is at Anybody But Brownback. Gotta love the photo of that dog. You might remember Brownback was discussed at some length in Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas, a book worth a re-read these days.

And to respond to an earlier comment, yes I am meditatively chanting the word "Feingold" whenever possible. No nirvanic bliss yet, but I've noticed I'm listening to a ton of Wagner these days. No idea why.

Meanwhile, in more relevantly proximate electoral news, can one of my many "avid readers" convince me to get excited about Patricia Madrid? And no, saying "she can win" isn't what I'm looking for. What's her actual position on getting out of Iraq, for instance? I see that Madrid is scheduled to have a Q&A at the January 5th Democracy for New Mexico monthly meeting. Despite my strong hermitical (new word?) proclivity, I think I'll actually leave the endless web surf to attend. I'll be the scraggly dopey looking guy covering his ears when the stupid questions start.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Resolution to Losing Blog Weight

Going on a blog posting diet, featuring dramatic verbiage portion control and 75% fewer adjectives/adverbs.

To wit:

Rode the 53 Isleta bus last night for the first time in months. It was fine, but we gotta lose those cell phones on public transportation. Must lose cell phones. Funniest non-cell phone line of the night:

"Yeah I thought I was over my cold so I went ahead and drank last night, Black Velvet and did I get sick, throwing up and shit. Didn't even get drunk, uh, didn't get buzzed, just threw up like crazy, man. Black Velvet and coke. I guess I still have this cold."

And speaking of the word "shit", I am so proud of our local paper of record (yeah, you probably gotta pay for this shit). It's got the "s" word in it, man! Something about those Mobile Home Aryan Nation bomb-storehouse bandit suspects "'doing some crazy shit'" according to an informant. No shit. Okay, I'm being infantile, but this is the first time I remember the Journal rolling that way. Okay, now I'm being infantile and using faux hip lingo. And using excessive adjectives.

But hey, a blog entry in under 750 words. I feel good, I tell ya! I gotta go weigh myself right this second.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Big Bill in BlogLand

Okay, I admit it, I'm really picky when it comes to politicians. On the subject of New Mexico Governors who might go on to the Presidency, sure...I'd rather that Paul Wellstone was resurrected, moved to an efficiency apartment in Taylor Ranch to meet residency requirements and went from there. And yes, I realize that my Wellstone fantasy has both metaphysical and political hindrances, including recent polls indicating that Big Bill Richardson has a 64% approval rating in New Mexico with 77% approval by those who actually define themself as "Liberal". Still, fantasy or no, there is something about Big Bill that makes me think I'll like him much more when he is much farther away from New Mexico. No, not President, but some high post involving diplomacy in the Kucinich Administration (hey, at least Kucinich isn't literally dead!)

So as a Big Bill Ambivalent at best, I ride in the same garishly outfitted boat with many Republicans and other Blue Meanies. A sickening ride that. I need some Billotivation, some Richmentum, some...something. I figured the best way to better digest the Richardson Kool-Aid was to find some partisan blogs and find out why the Average Jennas and Joes of the world are just so wacky about the guy.

America for Richardson: Started by some Non-New Mexicans (all "facts" taken from the sites involved...caveat blogtor), including someone from my previous residence of Olympia, Washington. Subtitled "Growing the Netroots for Bill Richardson, President 2008", the site is as boring as that title. The site is so boring it could be the school lunch menu page from APS or the Tyra Banks Show. Has the usual stories: old baseball scout writes email saying Big Bill was draftable pitcher, Diane Denish really isn't bothered that much by the touching, reviews of the obligatory "I'm Running for President" book, Between Worlds. The site has user blog and forums capability, but there are very few of either. Rating: This site makes me want to vote for Adlai Stevenson...very milquetoast.

Will the Wolf Survive?: This moribund page was started by one of the guys (the Olympia one) at American for Richardson. It very obviously was started simply because of the cool Los Lobos reference...but the blogmaster has decided to just do stuff over at America for Richardson. It does paint the picture that instead of that stupid Fleetwood Mac song the Clintons used, at least a Richardson Inaguration could have a fairly cool song..but one we will all get sick of quickly. Rating: The Wolf Did Not Survive.

BillRichardsonBlog: Two folks named Ian and Andrea started this blog, which at least has some nice photo art on the banner top. They also are better than the two aforementioned blogs in that they find stuff beyond the "Big Bill Touches Alot" and "Big Bill Pitched Real Good" pablum put out in the mainstream press (although they have that, too). Naturally, everything they find is totally pro-Big Bill, including some anti-Hillary stuff, which is always in good taste. It's a pretty good summation of Big Bill's positions, and I even like some of them (the where's my 6% teacher pay raise, Big Bill...hand it over!). Rating: still not exciting, but at least puts the idea of reaching for the Kool-Aid into the mind.

Bill Richardson for President 2008 Yahoo Group: A small group of the same hard-cores who started the Richardson for America blog...or was that America for Richardson? The Yahoo Group has 67 members, proving that ANY Yahoo Group could have 67 members, a Howie Mandel "Deal or No Deal" Yahoo Group could have 67 members, easy. Hell, a Yahoo Group dedicated to Howie saying "Open the Case" could get 67. But back to Big Bill. This group is mind-numbingly boring...a condition I am finding rampant in this investigation. Messages from Michiganders trying to get Big Bill to visit because it sucks in Michigan. Like this is a new condition. Like Big Bill could do anything to fix the condition. Rating: Wuh? What...oh, I must have fallen asleep, sorry I drooled on your keyboard...that's alot of >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> symbols, ain't it?

Okay, let's face it, all these blogs/groups are so boring as to hardly be worth mentioning. In them I learned basically nothing, except that a very few folks are taking the trouble to start and participate in blogs about Bill Richardson. Perhaps rightly so, it is about 25 months to the 2008 New Hampshire Primary. Still, it's striking that Howard Dean's old web infrastructure, hosted locally by DemocracyforNewMexico is still going strong. Checking around for Wesley Clark, Russ Feingold, Hillary Clinton, etc. shows far more blogging (not that it's interesting in any way) than with Big Bill, and there are plenty of little guy sites (may I interest you in a DraftKucinich2008?) getting traffic. Perhaps this is because the others ran in 2004 and a skeletal blog structure has stayed in place. Maybe it's because Big Bill hasn't announced quite yet, as he has that pesky 2006 Governor's race to get through.

Regardless, I just spent the morning finding out all I could about Big Bill and I'm just as ambivalent about him as ever. For now, when it comes to 2008 I'm sticking with ritual chanting at Paul Wellstone seances. It seems the wisest political choice for me right now.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Bill O'Reilly's Terrorist Attack on My Water Heater

Note to self: In the future, don't have your water heater explode on Christmas Eve at 3:00 A.M.

Cost of new water heater: $400.00
Cost of Emergency Installation of Water Heater on a Saturday Christmas Eve: $7,400,000,000.00

Other notes:

Towels used to sop up old water heater flood waters: 7
Paper towels used: 7.4 billion
Name of City Employee who came out at 3:00 A.M. on Christmas Eve to turn my water off (thanks!): Lawrence Rodriguez
Percentage of remaining emergency water storage used to make coffee this morning: 75%
Percentage of remaining emergency water storage used for toilet matters: hey, we live in the South Valley.
Reasons to put Bill O'Reilly in the "headline" of this blog entry:
  1. War/Terror/Christmas...get it? Oh, whatever.
  2. I've noticed that whenever I put celebrities in my blog entries I get fascinatingly high numbers of strange visitors to my site even weeks/months afterwards. And who doesn't like strange visitors?

And lastly, merry holidays from 'Burque Babble, and Bill...Bill O'Reilly? If you agree to pay the installation charge for my new water heater, I'll be happy to change "merry holidays" to "Merry Christmas". More than happy.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

With a Heave and a Ho: Rail Runner, Final Chapter

Yesterday I mentioned that today I would be writing the definitive word on both commuter rail ("Rail Runner") and light rail in ABQ ("Rapid Transit Project"). Since I tend toward "Das Kapital" length combined with Mad Magazine depth, I'll try to corral the loquaciousness and let loose a few actual facts at least.

Rail Runner and Devilish Details

The relatively easy to implement Phase I of Rail Runner is supposed to start service in March, 2006 or so. Basically, all this took was spending $75 million on some underutilized, already existing BNSF rail lines and $35 million for five locomotives and rail cars. Given the perceived flush condition of New Mexico finances, dropping $110 milion on a Holiday present like this doesn't seem totally out of line.

Oh, but the devil is in the details. Above is an ornithographic photo of the proposed "Rio Bravo/Airport"station from the Mid-Region Council of Governments. For those familiar with the area, the proposed station is north of Rio Bravo on 2nd Street, basically across from the Giant gas station.

I spoke with a very nice guy named Tony Sylvester from the MRCOG the other day and asked about this station. He said there were some delays in obtaining the land from the developer and that the station was on hold until this snag was unsnagged. We talked about other options, such as putting the station across on the South side of Rio Bravo (where the designated bike path runs) and he said that had been investigated but wouldn't work. So to sum things up I asked him what this all meant. He said that if the parcel wasn't sold to the project, the station just wouldn't be built. A "Rio Bravo/Airport" Station wouldn't exist.

To use the blog/internet parlance: WTF? Yes, I realize that the "Rio Bravo/Airport" Station is just a minor part of a Belen to Bernalillo train run. Still, take a gander at the many stations scheduled to be built along Phase I. What is the status of these stations? What's the point of having a train if you don't have completed stations with park-n-rides in place? ABQ and environs may be one of the least pedestrian-friendly areas in the entire world...are we suggesting that folks walk to these nascent stations/platforms located along railroad tracks?

I was directed by MRCOG staff to a December 11th ABQ Journal story (sorry, $ required) about station/platform construction. Frankly, reading this story is more like reading a press release from the MRCOG office. What missing is a simple table with the following:

  • Station
  • Station Date Opening
  • ParknRide Upon Opening (yes/no)
  • ParknRide spaces available
What we need is less Lawrence Rael proselytizing the wonders of mass transit and more information on what's going on with Rail Runner.

What Do the Details Mean?

One might rightly ask at this point: "Scot, what's with the ranting/raving? Any new service has unknowns! Any new service has bugs! What's the big deal?"

Well, the big deal is this. As someone very interested in living in an ABQ and environs with a real full-fledged, rail-inclusive mass transit system, the kick-off of Rail Runner is absolutely vital. Public perception of how this thing gets off the ground is essential if we are then to take the much more expensive steps of Phase II commuter rail to Santa Fe (which we all know is going to cost much more than the initial outlays made during this oil/gas windfall spending frenzy) and light rail in ABQ proper. If we can't do this very first thing right, there won't be a chance in hell of getting the next things at all.

Right now, in the political haste to just get the damn thing started, Rail Runner is getting us off on a very wrong foot. Missteps have already happened with the repeatedly delayed start of operations. Now promises of stations and service are being made that will have to be further delayed, in cases like South Valley service delayed indefinitely.

The upshot is that this hurriedness leads to perception of Rail Runner as some half-assed political ploy dreamed up by Big Bill as he loads his suitcase for Washington. When glorious pictures and stories of Rail Runner's gala inaugural ride are soon replaced with stories about continued station construction delays, critics will not only paint Big Bill and other politicos as inefficient, overzealous losers...they will be able to paint rail-inclusive mass transit with the same brush.

In the final analysis, it's hard not to disagree with Big Bill, who was quoted in an ABQ Journal story as saying Rail Runner "will change the face of transportation in New Mexico forever." Frankly, Rail Runner in itself doesn't really matter that much. Without connecting East-West rail services in ABQ, the $390 million and rising Rail Runner service is just a few choo-choos delivering a few folks to and from Belen and Santa Fe. Without integration into a large regional bus/rail transportation authority ( the narrator says about Citizen Kane's Xanadu "no man can say"), Rail Runner service to Santa Fe might as well be the steam train from Chama to Antonito, Santa Fe tourist style.

What Rail Runner serves as is a calling card, a sales pitch to the larger mass transit system the area will need by 2025. Right now the underlying sales tools for making a huge investment in mass transit aren't there: our traffic isn't bad enough, our air not quite smoggy enough, the cost of gas not quite high enough. As such, Rail Runner's public relations sales job as an efficient, well-organized legitimate service is even more important. Given the delays and station uncertainty (as well as pricing and other nagging details), Rail Runner certainly isn't getting off to an impeccable start. And an impeccable start and continued operation is vital if Rail Runner is every going to be more than just a few choo-choos running a sparse set of commuters and tourists around at a ridiculous cost per passenger mile.

As to predicting what is going to happen, using my "Das Kapital" reference as an excuse, I believe Marx himself was loathe to guess the future. And I'm no Karl Marx. I'm also not one of those people who just thinks mass transit is stupid, trains outdated, and improved roads terribly important. Hell, I WANT gas to be $5.50 a gallon. I also know that I live in an area where my sentiment is in the minority. As such, and having looked at Rail Runner and other transit ideas, I'm gonna guess the following:

  • Spring 2006: Rail Runner starts off and is generally lauded in that Downtown Action Team sort of way with lots of rah-rah.
  • Summer 2006: Ridership healthy; life good.
  • Fall 2006: Some of the stations get finished and there is much rejoicing, but news get out that some stations will have much longer delays or will have to be scrapped altogether.
  • Winter/Spring 2006/2007: Ridership flattens, and then starts decreasing.
  • Spring/Summer 2007: Phase II encounters a few more snags; Big Bill spending more time in Manchester and Des Moines than Santa Fe.
  • Fall 2007: Plans for Phase II are "temporarily" scrapped due to delays and cost increases.
  • 2002: Continued publication date of the Rapid Transit Project webpage at the city's ABQ Ride website. Site is never updated due to lack of interest and the bad-taste left in the collective public mouth by Rail Runner.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Son Of Daughter Of Rail Runner Ranting: Part III

This morning I am doing my civic duty and have stopped reading Jean Teasdale in The Onion mid-pathos. I have instead joined a group! I have instead joined the heretofore unknown "AlbuquerqueBusRiders" group on Yahoo! The civic pride is shimmering off of my sweatshirt this morning like brightly colored Gatorade TV-ad sweat!

Say what you will about something as over, as blandly pre-2006, as Google, but it's still pretty cool. Not only did a search for something "light rail Albuquerque" turn up the 5, now 6, member AlbuquerqueBusRiders Yahoo Group, but also an unsigned screed against Light Rail in ABQ. Not just a screed, but a pretty darn funny one. Seriously, I have no idea as to the veracity of the arguments made by this page, but any web page whose very title says there should be a "moritorium (sic) on the Nob Hill Sector Plan" has got my confidence immediately.

My wife, who, when forced at gun point, actually looks at this blog, keeps reminding me that nobody ever clicks on blog links. That's a pity, because it you click on the "moritorium" screed (linked for your convenience above) you not only get some possibly very compelling (or possibly not) reasons why light rail is bad, you also get scathing(and pretty darn funny) criticisms of the consultant's pictures done for the circa-2002 "plan" for an ABQ light rail system AND gruesomely cool actual photos of wickedly smashed cars that have been creamed by light rail trains. Unfortunately, there are no photos of cars being smashed by buses, as buses evidently emit some sort of friendly force field making accidents impossible.

Just to be "fair and balanced", my swelling civic duty has also led me to join another Yahoo group! This one is Light Rail Now! (the name of which continues the liberal tradition of using imperatives in groups/causes, e.g. Move On! Democracy Now! Support the Troops! ...oh wait) This group has more members (272 as of my joining), and is national in scope. A quick glean of the messages for this group illustrate a regrettable lack of misspelled words, and a strong predilection toward words like "modal" and "exurban". Albuquerque gets mentioned at the Light Rail Now! News website for the Rail Runner stuff, and includes a little teaser:

"In addition to regional passenger rail, a light rail transit system for Albuquerque has been moved up as a possibility with the re-election of Mayor Martin Chavez, who made installing such a system a major campaign priority."

I am LOVING the use of the word "major" in that sentence. Okay, tomorrow will officially be "Grand Unification Analysis Day" here at 'Burque Babble, a day in which I will succinctly and profoundly distill and permeate the various plans, boondoggles and visions to achieve a pithy, yet all-encompassing summation of what ABQ and NM should do regarding mass transportation for the rest of recordable time. A lofty goal, but after all I have done almost THREE DAYS of research on the subject (at great psychic costs, I mean I could have instead focused my energies on Big Bill touching Diane Denish's leg or this woman getting a restraining order against David Letterman, et. al., for sending her secret signals via her television).

But that's tomorrow. First, I have to mentally prepare for such a definite, seminal analysis by getting back to that Jean Teasdale article, putzing around the house and watching the Blake's Lotaburger Chile Bowl from Deming. Go, Northwestern Iowa Tech - Ottumwa, Go!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Train We Ride? Sixteen Coaches Long?

In further proof that I need to get a life, I've spent the morning at the New Mexico Council of Governments site piddling through the Alternatives Analysis (which I know sounds like some sort of sex-related thing) for the Santa Fe Phase II of the Rail Runner train. The graphic to the left shows a mobius strip of shaded red. That's the suggested Lamy bypass where approx. 16 miles of new track would be lain for Rail Runner II.

The Executive Summary of the Final Report (hey I'm boring, but not boring enough to read the full document) notes different alternatives, including HOV lanes, a new regional bus authority running shuttles from SF to Bernalillo, and just having a train follow the entire route through Lamy on to SF.

The upshot of the analysis is, of course, the money. In a very interesting table, the summary estimates that the cost of building the new track and running train service to Santa Fe will cost just about the same as just adding a lane of traffic on both sides of I-25, and will cost much less than having HOV lanes and a regional bus company (a stupid idea that I hope is finally burned to the long-term planning ground with publication of this document).

What to think?

  • In a sure sign this blog has reached a new low, I'm actually trying to get in touch with folks from the MRCOG, GRIP, DOT to ask a few questions. I'll share what I find out as I get it, but as normal people, many of these folks have taken this pre-holiday week off or just aren't around. Maybe they are writing blog entries about middle school education.
  • Some say the Governor is doing this as much for the positive press, and when I see AP stories on the project picked up by papers like the Casper Star-Tribune and a weird editorial from Santa Fe on the project in the online version of the Fort Wayne, Indiana News Sentinel (???) you have to think it certainly isn't hurting Big Bill.
  • By the way, some here in New Mexico seem to be confusing making fun of Big Bill with attacking Big Bill. In some cases, it's definite attacking (Mario Burgos, anyone?), but with some of us it's just good ol' skeptical inquiry and funnin'. Problem is, this State hasn't seemed to have quite moved up the political analysis evolutionary chart to the point of skeptical inquiry and such. Take, for example, the Journal story about Big Bill and his "touching" problem (paid site). Loved reading it and funny as hell, but you know we're in a faintly naive political environment when a story like that hasn't been the source of at least 25 follow-up news stories and 1,000 blog entries. I'm gonna work on that blog entry aspect when I finally stop obsessing on this Rail Runner thing.
  • But back to the obsession. I could go on and on, but I'll try to keep it to one question right now:
    • A big sales point of the Executive Summary is that running a commuter line direct from ABQ to SF will cost roughly no more than expanding I-25 to three lanes. The question becomes does anyone seriously think that we aren't going to do both and have both Rail Runner and the I-25 expansion?
In a Jeff Jones-written ABQ Journal story of December 10th (yeah, you gotta pay for that too), NM Department of Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught assures us that Rail Runner funding will not take funds away from other road projects. Hmmm....we'll see. We'll see.

And Next Time on Scot's Obsession with Rail Runner: The South Valley "Rio Bravo/Airport" station that isn't.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Railing For and Against Rail: A Story in Confliction

Okay, first of all I seriously doubt that there is anybody in the entire New Mexico Mid-Region Council of Government listening area who wants a light rail mass transit system more than me. Maybe I'm not alone, but I have incredibly high levels of the following criteria:

1. I certainly agree that single-passenger vehicles are one of the greatest dangers to the planet.
2. I detest urban driving. Hate it.
3. I much prefer rail to bus as:
a. I get motion sickness on the bus.
b. Rail is romantic and cosmopolitan while buses as unromantic and creepy.
c. Buses stop too much.
d. Then there's the whole plural of bus it busses or buses? Should it be buses or busses, really?
4. I really love rail/subway system maps. In fact, I now notice that I have a MTA New York City Subway map pinned on the wall not five feet from this computer. I would really love to live in a town that has a light rail map. I'd memorize the stops. I'd get the official subway theme tune stuck in my head, like this one in Budapest. You can check out other Budapest rail tunes out here.

So the last few days I've been looking at a bunch of websites from other cities with mass transit including some form of rail. I now know the difference between commuter rail, light rail and incline rail. I now know the annual operating budget for Dallas' DART system ($294 million in FY 2004). I now know that it costs $18 to ride round trip from Stockton to San Jose, California. I now know what a "fare evasion administrative fee" is. There's still very, very much I don't know and I'd love to talk with someone more knowledgable about this stuff (something that wouldn't be hard to do given that I am still largely clueless). Still, I have developed some questions that I haven't seen answered yet.

As an aside, one thing about these various mass transit web sites is the frequent use of Adobe Acrobat .pdf files. Isn't it about time that someone created a more user-friendly, less end-user crashing software program for this stuff? Relative to the rest of the web .pdf files are the Windows 386 of Internet circa 2005. Now on to the questions:

1. Rail Runner along existing rail lines is easy. Negotiate some agreements, buy some choo-choos, build some stations, voila! But:
  • Where are the constructed stations?
  • What agreements are in place with SunTran to provide bus/rail links?
  • Why haven't the fare prices and other details been worked out?
  • What's the rush to service given these details are still being worked out?
2. Then there's making ABQ and environs the site of a real rail-inclusive tranportation system. Otherwise we have a few choo-choos running a few people up and down a corridor. Frankly, Rail Runner's meager benefit to the transportation problem primarily extends only to the southern suburbs and Santa Fe. What about Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and the Marty-sprawl of the Westside? Unless our goal is to idiotically just have folks drive down the hill to the rail station we're now talking extensive right-of-way issues, long-term road construction to retrofit roadways for rail lines, plenty of long-term bonds with multiple bond issues votes overseen by a supposedly coordinated overarching entity of central planners.
  • Are we in Bernalillo County ready to fund projects that cost billions of dollars? Billions?
  • Is our traffic really bad enough now to warrant these expenditures? How bad would it have to get?
  • Of course in a perfect world, we would have worked out the right-of-way issues beforehand, but we are still not including rail (or even HOV lanes) in our roadwork planning. How are these issues gonna be decided when it involves real eminent domain issues, including possible relocation of businesses/families? Hell, we're moving a bunch of historically significant rocks instead of making any families move now.
  • Dallas' DART is held up as a shining example of the development of a mass transit/taxes-averse community finally embracing a rail-inclusive system.
I was gonna get into the Denver example and a bunch of other stuff, but think I'll hold that for another time. As I said way up there somewhere, I am in FAVOR of light rail. Love it. I just have a whole bunch of questions, the biggest of which is wondering if the my fellow 'Burque citizens are ready to make the sort of commitment necessary to take this rather insignificant Rail Runner thing and make it something more than a Big Bill cap feather. Right now, I'm guessing a brilliantly designed, persuasively argued, James Carville/Karl Rove-orchestrated bond initiative on a real rail-inclusive system would fail miserably (say 70/30 ratio).

I'm definitely keen on hearing more about the whole process, but for now anybody who talks about taking the Green Rail Line up Central to Nob Hill or the Red Line to Cottonwood Mall from the South Valley as if we're living in some adobefied Boston or San Francisco is getting nothing but smirks from me. I'm hoping desperately that I'm wrong, and that Rail Runner is the forerunner to a grand system where I can pay the Senior Citizen fare from my conveniently located bus line through my spotlessly romantic rail station to my utterly efficient post-Nationalized Health Care medical facility. Meanwhile, I'm gonna drive by that dirt patch on 2nd Street that is supposed to magically turn into the "Rio Bravo/Airport" Rail Runner station by March and wonder again about things like long-term urban planning.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Release the Hounds...

Okay, the last paper just got graded and another middle school semester is ready to go out in a dizzy whimper of assemblies, surreptitious and not-so-surreptitious in-class eating, Gregory Peck lawyering so well and so vainly in To Kill A Mockingbird and a Fascistic bell at 3:05 releasing all of us back into our real bodies after five months of constant stage acting.

School and teaching school is the greatest experiment in "term limits" ever. Unlike jobs in the real world, teaching comes in little seasonal packages, your office mates and clients changing on a regular basis. It's more like a real life with a birth, old age and death, all in a five month cycle. Tomorrow afternoon we're taken off the feeding tube and another one of the six semesters of middle school hell passes away. Even in the warped psychological wickedness of middle school they go pretty fast. Sure, there are times in every semester that everyone, teacher and students alike, wonders if it will ever end. Ever. Then a day like tomorrow comes and we all forget about the November 12ths and February 9th of the muddle-through year and we get to do our little butterfly out of the chrysalis action. I know we all experience this as a student, but I highly suggest everyone try it at least once as a teacher. Even with the obligatory assembly and furtive candy canes.

Oh, and in other, more 'burque babble-esque, news...the end of the semester means more postings, especially next week when we in the fake land known as education get (and yes, I'm am gloating on an Olympic scale here) THE WEEK OFF THAT NOBODY ELSE GETS!!! I definitely plan on calling all my friends with "real" jobs at work in regular intervals next week, asking "how's work going today?" and "what day of the week is today? I keep forgetting."

It's a wonder I don't have more friends.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Goats and Public Transportation: An Interlude

Slow time for the blog (i.e., Jenga!) between a hectic last week before Winter Break and my decision to become a Commuter Rail Mass Transit Expert (CRMTE) in the wake of the Rail Runner discussion. Spending way too much time at the American Public Tranportation Association and State/local sites such as this one in Rhode Island. Hey, it beats constant paper grading to compare energy source-types on a megajoule per passenger kilometer basis, etc. I'll have a definitive word on whether Rail Runner is the stuipidest idea of all time in the next few days. I just wish Big Bill and the rest would wait on my definitive, unarguable decisions in these matters before spending the money. Of course, I'm not in a hurry to run for President.

Oh, and while we're stalling here's a picture of our goat. There's been some call for more goat pics...consider it the equivalent of a "Bird Blogging Sunday" at DemocracyforNewMexico.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tonight's Forwarded Email

Yeah, I don't read forwarded emails with jokes, either, but sometimes you just got to hand it to somebody else and admire the snark that is "Dood Abides" over at Daily Kos. Brilliant, brilliant stuff. Some of those G.W.B. Photoshops will be burned into my retinas for far, far too long.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Let's Move the Rocks!"

Now Showing!

From the city that brought you the Demolition Of the Alvarado Hotel, only for the Hotel to be cheesily resurrected as some ghost-like faux-authentic "Transportation Center", comes the newest in civic engineering ingenuity!

It’s “Let’s Move the Rocks”!

From the same city that continues to bring you such trailblazing civic engineers as Marty "let's just re-stripe the road in the middle of the night" Chavez comes the radically brilliant idea of moving a bunch of rocks with historically significant drawings on them 100 feet so that a road can be extended, making it possible for way too many people to drive ever-so-slightly more efficiently to their unimaginably boring, cookie-cutter houses!

You’ll laugh (in that embarrassed way that you as ‘Burque residents have done whenever ABQ has a “civic engineering” idea)!. You’ll cry (from the sheer combination of pure "Benny Hill-level" stupidity and unbelievably ill-conceived supposedly righteous surburbian anger)!

Remember: no one will be admitted during the "what the %&$# did we just do again?" scene.

"Let's Move the Rocks!", brought to you by Westside Sprawl Films in Association with MartySlum Productions.


And, Coming Soon!

"Dances with Rail Runner Train Station!" The exciting true-adventure story of brave commuters in the New West who risk life and limb catching light rail trains at stations with no Park-N-Ride, no station platforms, no nothing. See South Valley residents hop moving trains in their business suits and briefcases, after hiking 2 miles from the closest parking space. With Kevin Costner, as South Valley businessman Kent Brockman.

P.S.: Did you notice that the South Valley station is called "Rio Bravo/AIRPORT" station? That's a joke, right? I mean, they're kidding about the Airport part, right?

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Solemn Vow

On the beyond infinitesimal chance that I someday run for public office, I want everyone to know the following now:

I have favored a flag-burning amendment to the U.S. Constitution way before Hillary Clinton even thought about it. It galls me that thousands, if not millions of flags are burned every day by so-called Americans with supposed grievances about alledged shortcomings in the direction of our nation. Just yesterday driving to work I must have seen 10 or 12 flags getting burned along the side of the road. If I'm ever elected to anything, even an office that has more to do with kickbacks and extortion like New Mexico State Treasurer, I will stop whatever it is I'm doing or supposed to do to make sure that a flag-burning amendment is added to the U.S. Constitution.

If elected and despite my efforts a flag-burning amendment isn't passed, I vow that I will have plenty of teary press conferences where I wax nostalgic about doing the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1st Grade and think about the Godless Communists who would even consider burning the flag that I looked at while standing up next to my little 1st Grade desk and tried to figure out exactly where my heart was in relation to my little boy nipple and shoulder blade so that I could put my hand there because Ms. Davis said if I didn't I wasn't a good American.

Oh yeah, I also want to make sure we add provisions to the flag-burning amendment to criminalize the following (penalties ranging from death to watching Raechel Ray cook pork):

1. Hanging the flag upside down, even by mistake
2. Hanging the flag of any other country up, even if it's the country the person "grew up in" or "supports in an insurgency against an invading power". This is America and your wimp-ass country flag is blasphemous.
3. Even threatening to burn a flag by holding a lighter next to it, even if you are in the 6th Grade and think this is one of those funny jokes that will get the girls to like you, especially those "bad girls" who really appeal to you for some reason you can't put your finger on.
4. Burn U.S. Currency, Selective Service draft cards, Driver's Licenses, IRS Forms, State Income Tax Forms or those franking privilege mailers from U.S. Rep Heather Wilson.
5. Burn or rip in half those junk mail envelopes mortgage companies that have American flag graphics on them in some psycho-twisted attempt to conflate refinancing with patriotism.
6. Burn or rip any other advertisement featuring American flags, the colors red, white and/or blue in some graphical relationship indicating a U.S. flag reference, however slight.

There's more, but dammit some guy next door is burning the Flag in his backyard even as I write this. Can't somebody do something about this!?!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Scot's Pedantic Lecture Series #1: Political Sex and Electronica

In my last post I mentioned Diebold and it's becoming more and more interesting to me that an incredible amount of political outrage over the last two Presidential Administrations has centered on vote fraud and blowjobs. I find it interesting because there seems to be this sentiment implicit in all the brouhaha that these topics are new to the U.S. Presidency and that they represent to various groups (vote fraud = conspiratorially inclined Lefties; blowjobs = evangelically inspired Rightists) new, unprecendented lows in the history of our country and its leadership.

Are you kidding me? Without vote fraud and sex, a study of U.S. History would pretty much boil down to Gerald Ford and who wants that? More to the point, a failure to understand the importance of both fraud and sex in our Presidential history makes people feel like they are living in some Sodom and Gomorrah end times with people turning into pillars of salt and Fox showing adult-oriented cartoons masquerading as kids shows. Okay, maybe part of that is happening, but the fact remains that politics in this country has always been closer to Sodom than Branson. Yet lots of folks on both loony sides of the political spectrum have spent the last ten plus years sighting the suppposed coming of the Apocalypse.

Get off your high-horse tin-foil hat people. What you call conspiracy is just human nature, and getting unreasonable about the fact that:

1. power-hungry egocentric type people want to have sex
2. power-hungry egocentric type people want to win elections

is about as shocking as that Weekly World News headline saying "Aliens Claim Jacko Is Their Son". It also seems to me that those of us closer to the loony Left might get a bit more accomplished if we stopped looking for Diebold conspiracies and instead just took it as a given that any voting system can and has been manipulated at some level, including good 'ol paper ballots which are seen as sacred to tin-foil Diebold haters. It would also help if instead of neo-Luddite hue and cry about "voting machines" everybody worked harder on GOTV and other aspects of the world's scuzziest job, winning elections.

I really do admire and respect the energy of those who want to make sure every vote counts and is counted right. I just have a problem with knee-jerk reactions that because a "system" is hackable it means that Republicans are hacking it, have hacked it and that 2004-era Republicans are the only lowlife scum in history who would ever consider such a thing. Get over yourself....I kinda get the impression that the same zealots who declaim about the soulless Repubs would be the very same folks who would cheat just as much if given the chance. Not that there would be anything historically remarkable about that.

Speaking of the historical sense, the biggest electoral travesty to happen in recent times was the Supreme Court getting involved in Bush v. Gore. That WAS Sodom & Gomorrah. It's easy to see that in 50 years observers will look back at that in the same disbelieving way we look at Plessy v. Ferguson or the Dred Scott decision today. As for the whole Florida vote count process itself, that will just seamlessly fold in with Kennedy winning Illinois in '60 and we'll laugh about it the same way we do about Mayor Daley back in the day.

I feel a need to apologize for getting all serious and pedantic, but we teachers can get like that sometimes. Lots of times. Speaking of teaching and such...I'll close by just making the suggestion that anyone who does think we live in some Political Endtimes consult any decent book on U.S. History. For example, I just finished Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, and if you think our modern day electioneering of Swift Boating and Diebold is unprecendentally bad, check out the Election of 1796, or 1800 or even the supposedly sacred Constitutional Convention and Ratification process. Messy, messy stuff indeed, but also essentially uplifting in these trying times with the realization that they've all been trying times. Even the good 'ol days.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Seasonal Angry-as-Hell Disorder

Can everybody just settle down and get a grip? Maybe it's just a bit colder and people are acting reflexively chillier themselves, but we're unmistakably more pissy these days. Possible reasons abound...our car seats are too cold in the morning and a cold butt is the devil's workshop, it's getting closer and closer to the proscribed commercial holiday gift giving day, hyper-dread of "office parties" (who invented these and why hasn't it gone the way of witch burnings and Tang?) , and the ongoing Anti-Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids known as Diebold Voting Machines.

Regardless of cause, snippiness seems to be everywhere. What? You haven't experienced it yourself? What's your problem? Really, what's your problem??? C'mon get with the program and acknowledge higher levels of snippiness or I'll kick your ass. Ok, that's better.

My own gauge of the level of public snippiness is the number of drivers who tailgate me to the point of automotive sexual congress on South 2nd Street in the morning. If you haven't driven up South 2th from Rio Bravo to downtown you first need to realize that there is only one person in the recorded history of vehicular traffic who does not speed on this street: me. Every morning I form the head of an ever-growing comet of cars as pissed-off drivers collect behind me. From time to time I look in the rear-view mirror to see the strained, fuming looks of following drivers. I glance back to make sure guns do not appear in the mirror pointed at my head. Occasionally someone gets the gumption to pass me on the two-lane road. I invariably wave at these infrequent daredevils and then, using my finger (not middle), point toward the nearest Speed Limit sign.

I notice that these drivers are definitely talking while they pass, lips moving even though they almost never have passengers in the car with them....

Anyway, most days it is a rare person who does this passing business. Recently, however, there has been a steady barrage of bundled-up drivers flying by my little comet head. Drivers who seem to be getting whiplash from spinning their head toward me and my car while they pass. Drivers who look to be going for their glove compartment for a .45 or something. Even worse, given the fair amount of oncoming traffic even more upset drivers now crowd ever closer, unable to pass. These people have no interest in the farmland on the side of the road which is now the seasonal home to a large number of geese. They don't want to linger aside the dilapidated railyards and consider a time long ago when these twisted metals and broken glass buildings housed a mighty industry.

No, they simply want to kill me.

My totally uneducated guess is that these people are not just late to work these days, but instead suffer from a more intense distress. Maybe it's the Christmas lights they haven't put up yet. Maybe it's next month's VISA bill. Perhaps it's the thought of Friday's office party. Whatever the reason, I see the same tension in other places: work, shops, blogs. But nowhere is it more clear than my little strip of road going north.

Be careful out there folks, take it easy and take a gander at those geese in the field next to the road. Sitting there in the still green grass on a frozen cold December morning with your friends seems like a pretty good place to be these days.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

For Those Scoring At Home

At this point in the Anthony "Ace" Trujillo episode a few observations can be made:

1. Never go to Catron County, New Mexico
2. Did you like some folks look at that story and say, "Hunting? I don't like hunting. Drunk coked-up seat-belt-less guys driving with open containers is one thing, but hunting?"
3. The sordidness rating of this event relative to APS dirt in recent years is tough, and I need your help, but right now I have it:

Sordo-Rating 99 (of 100): Joey Vigil, his old-time homeboys, a case or two of beer, a country road and a flipped-over car in the middle of the night. Plus Joey gets extra points for being an Assistant Superintendent.

SR 95: Ace Trujillo

SR93: Brad Allison gets liquored and pilled-up and writes emails to Board Member whose name escapes me (and seriously, is that surprising given that Board Members are utterly unmemorable, except for absolutely insane guy Robert Lucero...oh and Mary Lee Martin who is obviously not from this planet and just missed the ship back, ala ET).

SR88: Michael Vigil gets a DUI and because of it several aspects of APS budgeting get frozen, including the purchase of Social Studies textbooks at my school.

But then's all about the kids. Definitely.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Why Satire Is Pointless

Case #1765545-5A: Highland H.S. Principal Anthony "Ace" Trujillo was busted in Catron County this weekend with cocaine, straws, an open alcohol container and a few rifles from his party Elk-hunting weekend out in the sticks. He evidently tried to hide the bag of cocaine in his mouth as the officer approached.

Seriously people, what's the point of being satirical? Damn unfiltered reality always does so much more than satire can come up with. Combining "Ace" with the litany of Brad Allison, Joey Vigil & Michael Vigil shows that APS administrators provide better and longer laughs than every "humor" website established since the creation of ARPAnet combined.

Oh...the only cheesy "news" I can add to that above is that a teacher buddy tells me Highland H.S. is having an "emergency staff meeting" tomorrow morning. I guess they won't be offering the complimentary mimosas this time around.

Breaking, Developing News Blog-Style

A blog without comments is an even more self-indulgent exercise in navel-gazing.

So, the lint in my navel this morning reveals:

  • That I am now legally blind from trying to see the score in the Lobo-Aggie basketball game during the Channel 13 telecast last night. I must need color guy Nelson Franz' special 3-D glasses to make out those scores.
  • That as someone who spent much of their Saturday night alone watching the Lobo-Aggie basketball game, I am now in the running for the Nobel Prize for Pathetically Boring. To enhance my chances, the Nobel committee likes to see a candidate spread pathetic boredom worldwide. Please consider this blog entry in your decision-making, o' Nobel Committee.
  • That Nelson Franz might need a new publicist...try as I might I can' t find a picture of him on Google, the KRQE 13 website, Smoking Gun, "", nothing.
  • That if you ever want to confirm your total irrelevance to our world, start a blog and put a site counter on it. Yes, in an act of both statistical geekiness and pathetic boredom I put such a counter on this site a couple of weeks ago. Some things are just better not known. Well, many things are better not known, but especially that the only people who read this page seem to be bot machines in Advance, North Carolina and some town in Malaysia.
  • That I'm still working on some Malaysian humor to stick in here....gotta match material to audience...but I do have something....
  • That it seems to me that Advance, North Carolina is an oxymoron.
  • That yes, I am appearing semi-regularly on this blog, remember to tip your waitresses.
  • That while my blog is utterly pathetic, Greg Peretti's hourly XBOX shortage update blog is harder to look at that Larry David on "Curb Your Enthusiasm". I mean I'm sure they're nice guys, but how much banal navel-gazing on meaningless subjects can you take?
  • Don't answer that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Charter School Oversight and "The Rookie"

Possible Recent Bank Robber High graduate, "The Rookie" (courtesy FBI)

Maybe in the rush to accept all those new charter schools over the last few years APS should have done a bit more checking before authorizing Bank Robber High. I think we can all agree that vocational training is important, especially at the High School level, but a closer examination of the proposed course catalog outlined in the school's charter application might have been wise. The following course descriptions are indicative of the school's trades-based emphasis (note that before the catchier name "Bank Robber High" was selected, the school was originally to be called Hi-Speed Bank Funds Acquisition Charter High School):

Creative Teller Notes 106: Students learn the sentence construction necessary for successful hi-speed bank funds acquisition, with a special emphasis on legibility and spelling. As instructor Virgil Starkwell always says, "nobody should have to do time because they didn't take the time to spell words like 'gun' and 'act' legibly."

Inconspicuous Entry 227: A variety of bank entry methods are examined, focusing on seminal questions in this aspect of hi-speed bank funds acquisition. These include: sweatshirt hood or business suit? Sunglasses or no sunglasses? Calm, unperturbed look or the more Postmodern blase cell phone look?

Ethics in Bank Robbery 499: In a Seminar format students discuss elemental questions in hi-speed bank funds acquisition, including whether bank customers should lie on the floor or hold their hands up, and the efficiacy of the demanding tone ("put the Goddamn money in the bag, bitch!") versus the more pleasant ("the money, the money, bitch, put the Goddamn money in the Goddamn bag, please!")

Update: Evidently Marc Matthew Dutch (AKA "The Rookie") didn't do well in Bank Robber High's Junior Level class on Avoiding Arrest, especially the "don't freak out and throw evidence with your fingerprints on it out of the getaway car" lesson. Maybe it's that newfangled whole language approach they use in these charter schools . Oh well, as John Goodman and William Forsythe's characters (Gale & Evelle Snoats respectively) say in "Raising Arizona":

GALE (holding cooked chicken leg to temple):    

Y'understand, H.I.,if this works out
it's just the beginning of a spree across the entire
Southwest proper.

We keep goin' till we can retire-or we get caught.


Either way we're fixed for life.

Those Poor, Pitiful Bastards!

The NYTimes has the sad, wrenching (and so worthy of sending a reporter to Iowa) story of the rural living Hawkins family. What is wrong with this country that it can't provide broadband to three-piece suit wearing white people living in giant homes on sizable farms? The horror! The cyber-poverty of it all! (free subscription, but not that outrageously expensive "Times Select", required)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Panic in Streaming Music Park

Tonight is a sad, soundless night 'round these parts. It seems that the Rhapsody site is down. Do you know the last time I actually put one of those silvery round flat objects (I believe you Earthlings call them "Cds") in a player? I have four CD stack holders covered in literally millimeters of dust. Tree rings of dust. Carbon-14 date-able levels of dust.

Most anybody who is geeky enough to go blog-hunting already knows about Rhapsody, and I absolutely hate any fawning that approaches shill status, but it surprises me the service doesn't get more subscribers. Yes, it doesn't have everything, but it has so, so much. Enough that you can go through the typical ADHD music jag without missing a beat. One night it might be Flaming Lips begats Polyphonic Spree begats Granddaddy begats Codeine begats Galaxie 500 begats Mazzy Star and then you realize that you really been subconsciously depressed for days in a post-Thanksgiving let-down funk, and it took this little music jag to figure that out.

Or maybe you've got about 7 hours of housecleaning to do because you've been in this post-Thanksgiving funk holding onto comfort pillows in the fetal position for three days and nights while cats and dogs shed and keep shedding. So you crawl up from that fetal position, put on one of those box sets you've never been able to afford, say Ornette Coleman's "Beauty is a Rare Thing" and crank up all that wacky free jazz goodness while manically de-shedding.

And all for $9.95 a month. So, while others get the new IPod with the ever improving special features (like its spectacular battery replacement program!) and mp3 players for all the tunes we stole during the good ole' Wild-West days of Napster, I'm Jonesing for my Rhapsody tonight...because it's down. My music's down, man. It's down.

Meanwhile, many of you old-skool music nerds have long wondered "where can I find a live complete rendition of They Might Be Giants' seminal hook medley 'Fingertips'"? Well here it is. (Real Audio) And here are some more tunes recorded recently at KEXP. Relive all the early 90's goodness with John and John singing in voices only slightly less cracked than mine in the shower after three cups of coffee and a night of screaming over the music in a smoke-filled bar.

Oh Wait! Glory of Glories! The Rhapsody is back up! Yeah! Bring on the Mountain Goats, pronto! There's a post-Thanksgiving funk to listen our way through and John Darnielle is just the guy for the job. I wonder what we'll listen to after that....

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Snowy White Underbelly of the Internet

It's a long, long story involving dark obsessions, late night mysterious vigils and, before the Internet, overly frequent furtive phone calls to an older woman. The seductress would say:

"First State Bank is YOUR bank. Time Eleven Twenty-Four, Temperature Thirty One Degrees"

And I would marvel with pleasure, unable to keep from yelping out loud even though my parents told me to go to sleep an hour ago. BELOW FREEZING! SNOW! C'MON SNOW! SNOW! SNOW!

Now, years later, it's not just a temptress' voice. We have pictures. Pictures I spend hours staring at. There is chat porn, there are downloadable videos aplenty...but nothing satisfies my own personal itch like the Wyoming Department of Transportation Highway Conditions web cams system. Trust me, I've screened the wicked web for the best in weather/snow porn, and in clarity of picture, speed in loading and overall stark landscape quality, Wyoming DOT has 'em all beat.

My favorite is the Kemmerer Port of Entry. Now tell me THAT isn't an effective double entendre...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

All Hail The Party!

No long, Faulknerian-without-the-talent ramble today. Let me just direct your attention to what I find a pretty interesting little confab on things NM Democratic Party at Democracy for New Mexico. C'mon, check it out and add your comments! I made a fool of myself and you can too! One note of warning, however: after reading this you might definitely get the feeling the Republicans could run the late Jeffrey Dahmer for President and stand a pretty good chance in New Mexico.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It's An Extended Family Sordid Affair (sing-along)

Okay, I'm just waking up this morning but regarding the latest version of the Robert Vigil Treasurer's Office massacre (in four-part family harmony for the Harvest Festival) in this morning's Journal. (pesky's Steve Terrell's story at the SF New Mexican)

  • This is all just fall-down funny in a pathetic, embarrassed way reminiscent of watching your friend throw up on their shoes.
  • Could one of the newspapers construct a Family/Treasury Department Tree ala those really long historical novels? I lost track at the 3rd Gallegos related to Vigil's Uncle.
  • In truly a treasure trove of tasty quotes, my favorite right now (I notice my favorite is changing the more I read it...kinda like a Fountains of Wayne album) comes from Jo Ann Gallegos (she's the one who didn't have to provide a resume to get her job, but is remarkable because she's NOT related to Vigil)....namely, "That was a real good Thanksgiving present from the man they just hired. They didn't give anybody a chance."
    • A. I'm not hip to this "Thanksgiving present" concept. I will now consider my sweet potato topped with marshmellow cream a "present" instead of a "foul tasting, inedible tradition" from now on.
    • B. Too bad about Gallegos' "Thanksgiving Present", but when you consider Robert Vigil had been the gift that keeps on giving for so long, missing one holiday doesn't seem too important.
  • I want to be at the Sam Bregman news conference for this one. "Mr. Vigil did not have family relations with that woman, Ms. Gallegos..."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

My Weekend At Bernie's

I spent some of yesterday afternoon hanging out with the same 100 older, principally White people I had the previous Saturday. Yesterday's event with State Rep. Mimi Stewart, State Sen. Cisco McSorley and headliner U.S. Rep. from Vermont Bernie Sanders was billed as a chance for folks to find out how to run for public office, but in reality it was more of a progressive's rally for sanity. It certainly helped my own mental outlook to hear inspiring words from all three folks, especially Sanders who, after warming up, becomes quite a forceful speaker in that NYU Professor explaining the Wobblies sort of way.

As for content, there wasn't much that was new. It was fun and interesting to hear Stewart and McSorley talk about their pet bills over the years, successful and unsuccessful. McSorley, in particular, mentioned, with obvious and deserved pride, his work in getting the first AIDS assistance bill in the nation passed during the 80s. Stewart noted on more than one occasion that her litmus test for someone being a progressive was "choice". She's evidently trying to put a progressive caucus together with that simple "choice" password and she said 18 of the 112 legislators could join the club at present (she actually said 18 of 80, as I recall, but regardless it's less than 25%). Maybe it's because I tend to think we need a "bigger tent" but there is something somewhat depressing about boiling progressive thought down to one issue. Don't get me wrong, abortion is an important issue, a vital one, but isolating it at the expense of those who are progressives in all other areas might not be the way to go. Remember, send your righteous indignation, death threats, and other hate mail to this address.

The most interesting nuts and bolts running for office information centered on how effective door-to-door campaigning is. Both McSorley and Stewart harped on how essential knocking on doors is, and then followed calculations of how many doors one needs to knock upon to be successful, what percentage of folks are at home, etc. Somewhere in there, McSorley noted that he needed to hit 8,000 households in his Senate district to be successful, which seemed pretty high. My knuckles hurt just thinking about it. There followed a confusing mish-mash of numbers, but to be sure door-to-door campaigning was cited as essential. I could sense the feeling of dread that overcame my more introverted colleagues in the audience at this point. I mean, couldn't we just send out an email instead of walking up to people's front doors, knocking, and facing that dreaded slow opening? How about two or three emails?

And then Bernie Sanders got up and basically said that George W. Bush was a idiot and that Corporations are leading to the death of America, especially in health care, the middle class, and the environment. Nothing new, just more of the dualistically inspiring and depressing talk that has been the hallmark of progressive speeches since the Socialist party stopped getting more than 1% of the vote some decades ago. Still, maybe things are swinging up for us lefties these days and the long national nightmare we've been subjected to since Reagan won in 1980 might be subsiding. Too bad, a few thousand U.S. soldiers and untold thousand Iraqis had to die first.

Okay, enough "reportage"...let's get to what was really happening. First, the event was held at the "Plumber's Hall" a mid 20th Century brick building on San Pedro that was like walking into a history lesson. The building was pretty nondescript, but that nondescription spoke volumes about Unionism's more glorious past and it's almost moribund present. The Hall is a basketball mini-gym sized room that could easily hold at least 500-700 angry union members, and you can sit there and imagine them all chomping cigars, sitting on those ubiquitous metal chairs and screaming/yelling back in the day. I wondered how full the Hall has been recently on days it wasn't 1/7th full of progressives.

The event got me looking around the web, and I found the Southwest Labor Histories Archives that includes a page or two of B&Ws from New Mexico's Union past. I stole one photo to put at the top of this entry.

Second...just between you and me, do you absolutely despise the "Q&A session" part of progressive meetings like this? Maybe it is just me, but cringe is not strong enough of a word to describe the overall body implosion I experience when the questions start. The main speech ends, and sure there are questions to be asked, but then the moderator throws it open to a certain class of extroverted folk who invariably "ask" the following:

1. Long diatribes about something that has obviously been boiling inside them since the first time they did LSD and that they have been holding in, holding, holding, until this very second.

2. Long diatribes that are obviously intended to impress us with how intelligent they are, as if some hidden teachers in the large room are sitting there with grade books and red pens.

3. Long diatribes that always end in questions like "don't you agree Senator that child molesters are bad, and that people who kill little puppies are just as bad and that the law of gravity is a good law and should be supported, don't you think that, Senator, or are you in favor of child molesters, puppy killers and against gravity?"

I could go on, but this diatribe is long enough as it is. In brief, the Q&A at these events always leaves me wanting to literally meld into the ubiquitous metal chair to the point that I have to leave. In the case of yesterday's session, I'm sure I missed some good info during the Bernie Sanders Q&A, but weighing the possible nuggets of wisdom versus the absolute certainty of diatribes meant scampering out of the mid-20th Century Hall as fast as possible without making it look like Rep. Sanders had said something so offensive that I bolted in political protest.

I reached the same front door that I'm sure many cigar-chomping, angry Unionist have for decades, popped it open expectantly, breathed in the crisp, mid-Fall air as I lifted my face to the sun and realized that I was probably never going to knock on 8,000 doors, if for no other reason than the diatribes-masked-as-questions I would have to face. I will send plenty of emails, however.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Attention All Freelancers: Mea Culpa

I could never be a freelance writer. Yeah, there's the talent writing thing, but I'm speaking specifically here of the psychological makeup necessary to be a freelancer. I could never do it. I know some folks who are freelancer writers, my wife included, and I listen to their stories about slow paying clients, writing PR copy for schmucks, etc., and I just couldn't do it. I wouldn't last a week without either killing somebody or setting fire to a building (preferably one in which all my editor clients were tied to business chairs in a bizarre series of ropes, chains and duct tape while Africanized fireants crawled over their honey-covered faces & mouths propped open with sharply pointed toothpicks...not that I've thought this through or anything).

The bottom line for knowing I couldn't be a freelancer is the bottom line. I'm just one of those small-minded folks who autistically requires the monotony of the regular paycheck. Part of this condition is that I have a complete phobia about asking people for money, asking people where my money is, demanding my money, threatening people with ropes, chains and duct tape to get my money, etc. When far younger, and professionally lost in that special way peculiar to those who have Master's Degrees in Political Science, I actually tried to work in sales. Simply put, I was the single worst salesperson in the history of commerce. I admire, while also loathing, salespeople and their ability to stay persistent in "closing the deal". My "method" of closing went something like this:

Me: Hi, Mr. Person!
Mr. Person: Hello.
Me: Mr. Person, I'm selling Life Insurance, do you want some?
Mr. Person: No, I do not.
Me: Oh, okay, thanks for your time!

In a hideous former life that requires me to immediately shower every time I think about it I made tons of "cold calls" that were exactly like the exchange above. Sometimes hours of them. Well, honestly, only about once did I spend hours doing them before I (with some help from my bosses) figured out that I did not have much of a future in sales.

I relive my inadequacy from time to time with viewings of "Glengarry, Glen Ross" and then take a long shower.

Which gets me to freelance writing in Albuquerque. About the only published writing I do these days (besides this blog, which is not only paying the bills but also providing me with a healthy 401k plan) is writing little bits for a totally unnamed local publication. I'm not going to tell you the, not even if you ask real nice. No, chocolate will not help either. Anyway, this little unnamed local publication is kinda famous in the freelancing community for, uh, taking forever to pay you what scant pittance you are paid. It's basically a local version of a vanity press.

Of course such publications are anathema to real freelance writers, such as my wife. Every time I admit I'm writing something for them she gives me that look...the look that says "you aren't a very good salesman, are you?", the same look you give someone when they say something like "I know it's a penny stock, but shale oil is coming back, really". Especially as the husband of a real freelance writer, I know I should dig in my heels and refuse to write for a low paying, slow paying outfit. That's when my phobia about asking for money kicks in.

So, I officially apologize to all real freelance writers out there. No, my wife is not holding a gun to my head. Really, I'm sorry that I'm supporting in some way the financial ruin of your profession. I promise to stop...really, just as soon as my genetic structure is re-engineered sufficiently to turn me from an utter sales wimp to someone who could be one of those QVC jewelry pitchmen hawking "Gem-encrusted spoons of the 50 States". That could take some time, however. Until then, I'll be the one saying "that's okay" and "whenever you get around to it" ad infinitum.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Greatest Single Problem Facing Mankind

In my half-hearted page refreshing of the Bernco site for tonight's District 9 Run-Off, I was reminded of a comment Primary participant Chris Catechis made somewhere along the line about how crazy mad many District 9 voters were about speed bumps/humps. So between refreshes I checked around a bit and came across the "Dump the Humps" lobby. They say all politics is local, but persuing this site quickly illustrates that while it all may be local, alot of it is also incredibly petty.

It is nice, I guess, that we live in a land where great amounts of energy are expended not on providing basic shelter and gathering food, but instead on whether we should have speed bumps/humps or not. Maybe if we conquer this vital threat to life, liberty and property, we can move on to overcome other big topics such as why our BMW isn't as good on corners as we thought it would be, and how to get all those leaves out of the swimming pool.

Meanwhile, down in the lowly South Valley, I live on a street with speed bumps/humps. They were here when we moved, but we heard that they were the source of quite a political squabble. The street was also the source of an impressive number of SV drag races before they got put in, too. I don't know District 9 at all, but thinking back to Catechis' comments, looking at "Dump the Humps" and the vote count for Don F. (F = Freedom from Speed Bumps/Humps?) Harris, I'd say we on the further left might forget wasting energy on things like Growth Management, Mass Transit and a Living Wage, and instead start developing a Speed Bump/Hump plank. It'll fit on the agenda right next to the proposed "Swimming Pool Leaf Removal Initiative".

Monday, November 14, 2005

Now Showing

Just like "Seinfeld"'s George Constanza, I'm very, very hesitant to ever have worlds collide, namely my "professional" world of teaching with my "navel gazing solipsistic" world of blogging.

So, you'll understand my reluctance when I tell you that I spent several minutes at work last Thursday morning looking at an erect penis in mid-masturbation on a projection screen in the school Library. In fact, the entire school staff (no pun intended) did.

I also realize that without some context the casual reader might infer some impropriety in having taxpayer money spent on what amounted to a screening of bad porn. Let me assure you that everything was on the up-and-up (and isn't it interesting that pretty much any reference suddenly becomes semi-pornographic in such a discussion?), for the erect penis was indirectly a part of a NM Attorney General's Office presentation alerting teachers of the need to safeguard children from certain aspects of the Internet.

Earnest, quite stern investigators from Patricia Madrid's Office outlined Internet dangers, and then illustrated the proof in the pudding (watch it!, I know what you're thinking) by going to a chat room which (as everyone who has ever gone to a chat room knows) pretty much immediately led to an erect penis in mid-masturbation.

I'll admit I missed the remainder of the AG's Office presentation, feigning offense at the angered member, while I was really just offended that my fellow teachers would now just have one more reason to never use a computer or the Internet again. Then again, no child was ever sexually traumatized by a ditto or mimeograph, I suppose.

I guess I could try to justify explication of this little newsless tidbit by saying something like "Madrid is sure to make Internet threats to children a key part of her upcoming campaign against Heather Wilson", but I'd be lying. It's just that we teachers don't see erect penises masturbating on projection screens every morning. I can't even remember the last time.

Okay, the world's need to be more teacher/job posts for as long as I can make possible.

The Exciting World of Election Reform

I spent a small part of Saturday afternoon hanging out with 100 old White people at the Unitarian Church listening to speakers on the subject of election reform. Yeah, I know, I'm one very, very hip dude. Besides the obvious attraction of hanging out with lots of old White people, I went primarily to hear about Election Day Registration (EDR), as advocated by State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino. EDR is the rare political initiative that is simple to the point of being eponymous, and Senator Ortiz y Pino outlined why he thought that EDR was probably the single most important election reform New Mexico could undertake in the wake of his successful election reform bill that snuck through the Legislature last session.

The Senator's remarks were too brief and I frankly got bored with the tin-foil hats types who followed talking about how voting systems are computer systems (hence full of bugs, viruses, etc.) run by large Defense Contractors, but I was glad I went anyway. I came away with the following impressions:

1. We've got to get more than just a bunch of old, White people in the room. Maybe these political activists events need to be held at rave clubs with free drinks instead of churches, but ain't nothing meaningful gonna happen without the young folks showing up. At the same time, serious work needs to be done to get broader racial/ethnic participation in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Right now, events like these tend to look like Northeastern Ex-Pat conventions with everybody being far, far too nice and talking about moving here for the sun and low humidity.

2. Having Jerry Ortiz y Pino is the Senate is pretty cool. He's articulate, reformist without wearing the tin-foil hat, and was able to get needed ideas such as a voting paper trail passed as part of the election reform. Now he's on the Election Reform Task Force, which is great if for no other reason than it gives us election reform nerds a one-stop shop to send pleading emails about paper trails, why electronic voting is the Devil, etc.

3. The "vast Right Wing conspiracy" aspect of election reform just doesn't work for me. In case you haven't heard the arguments from this angle, here's a representative perspective. I know, I know, the fact that Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors are writing the software for Diebold and the other Bush Family controlled voting system-makers is scandalous. I am intellectually slothful for not caring more, and missing the big picture. Maybe it's the hopelessness of staring down the military-industrial monolith, or maybe it's just the knowledge that elections have been rigged/stolen throughout U.S. history (Tracy Campbell has a new book on our ignoble history in this regard), but I'd rather just focus on the following in future elections:
  • Everybody is registered
  • The voting "precinct" is done away with. Why limit voters to only electorally bank at one smelly middle school gym? Voters should be able to at the voting branch of their choice.
  • No provisional ballots
  • No uncounted votes
  • A paper trail for every vote
  • A publicly-created organization to replace the antiquated County Clerk system. My biggest gripe with electronic voting isn't the system, it's the fact that our "smart bomb" voting system then interacts with a ball-and-musket 18th Century certification system.
  • A officially limited 30-day campaign (okay, I'm really into dreamland here)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Odds and Sods

Doing a bit of link updating (could Blogger make that any more 1994 HTML-ish?) and a couple of newer web pages caught my eye:

You can hear a new Cat Power song. And when you can do that, you do it right now.

John Roderick and The Long Winters are like Death Cab without as much of the Cutie. He/they have a new EP called Ultimatum.

I finally got around to seeing Lilya 4-Ever the other day and I'm noticing that my penchant for unremittingly depressing film is waning. Maybe Von Trier ruined me, damn Scandanavians. Anyway, Lukas Moodysson has another Cronenberg-meets-Dogma '95 movie called A Hole In My Heart. It's been around for a while, but this is ABQ and I'm lazy. Reading this description of Moodysson's latest just makes me want to either kill myself or watch Dodgeball about 20 times without interruption. I'm turning into such a film wuss.

And oh yeah, if you want to see a good, upbeat Moodysson flick before he turned Von Trier on us, check out Together.