Sunday, December 31, 2006

Heather Catches Up To Reality

and there's not another election for, like, almost two years...

I'm liking this new Heather Wilson, the one that pretty much disagrees with the President on everything. You saw it via today's free Journal, too, but I think comments like this deserve repetition:

"We need a hard-nosed assessment of what we need, not what we wish," Wilson said. "Sometimes I think our national objectives in Iraq— including by our president— are described in pretty broad terms.
"I want Iraqi people to live in a free and democratic society, but that's not our military mission there ... that's an aspiration, that's not a vital national interest for the United States."

Now, of course, if Heather had only said this in, say, December 2005, 0r 2004, or 2003.
But one wonders what Patsy Madrid would have said that would be any different now, and if she could have said it as eloquently. No, really one doesn't have to wonder about that...

And speaking of old, tired news, my "news moratorium" is now officially over. I'll write later about its effects on my psyche and other holiday-related neurosis, but right now I have a bunch of news/culture obsession to binge back into. Whaddya mean Gerald Ford died?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What? A Post About the Snowstorm? How Unique!

I just got through shoveling the walk. In Albuquerque.

I'm so happy. And I know why so many drop dead while snow shoveling.

Yes, here in little Albuquerque we've had us a record snowfall. Accounts vary of course, but I'm guessing we have had about 10 inches down here in the South Valley, with some flurries continuing at present just to let us know who's boss.

ABQ readers know this already, and those who haven't had heart attacks from shoveling are playing out in the snow. On the off chance you're not from here, let it be known that I've lived here 13 years and have never seen a snow event like this one.

And as a snow junkie who has complained bitterly, loud and whiningly via this blog and elsewhere about the paucity of snow round these parts, I am digging it (sometimes literally).

I had all the typical snow junkie attributes yesterday: 1. inability to stop looking out the window; 2. lack of sleep because it wasn't stopping; 3. overly faux deep contemplation of what snow means as a symbolic blanket covering all the unlikable conditions on Planet Earth with a pleasant blanket of completely non-man-made materials; 4. near-continuous comments to my wife that "it's still snowing".

A great day all around, and today we get to pretend to do chores like shoveling when it's really just an excuse to play in the stuff. And then we're gonna play in the stuff.

One of the major branches in this tree just broke off. I'm off to deal with it.
Snowstorms aren't all good news I guess.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Papa Don't Got No More Mess To Take

R.I.P. James Brown....

He wasn't any worse than most of us, he was just more famous. And then he was better than just about any of us, so funky good.

And yes, I violated my news moratorium, but I found out the news on a baseball site. Judges are still ruling on whether that's a violation. In my defense, I have no idea if anyone has died in Iraq for several days now...and as a holiday hope I'm wishing not a single person of any nationality, religion or blood type has died in the whole place. Not one.

See you, Star Time, Get Up Off Of That Thing...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Letter From the Betty Ford Clinic of News

There's a line in one of those post-Caddyshack Rodney Dangerfield movies..."Back to School" or something, where Rodney has to quit drinking for some reason. After a short while of sobriety, he asks out loud, "What do you do when you not getting bombed?"

As a 'Net news junkie, I enter day three of my Moratorium with the same sort of question. For instance, what do you do when you're not surfing the local/metro section of the online Seattle Times when you haven't lived in Seattle for 13 years? How am I supposed to stay mentally sharp without constant updates from Wonkette? How can I have a decent conversation with anyone unless I spend 15 minutes at Metafilter and 30 minutes playing some addictive Java game linked from Metafilter?

Like, what am I supposed to do, read a book or something?

Impulse control has never been one of my strong points, and I already find myself lovingly caressing the mouse button when I scroll over saved URLs like NYTimes and Washington Post. But I have yet to click. Whoo-hoo! Good for me! At the same time, I find it so easy to reach for these informational equivalents of a cigarette, and a bit disappointing when I move on by without inhaling that rich, flavor-filled newsiness.

This morning I had a scare, having set the alarm and awaking to "All Things Considered". Fortunately, the report was about a snowstorm and I was able to flick the alarm off before any real news reportage sprung forth. I must switch my alarm radio from KUNM to another station, one without any news. I know, maybe I should switch it to 770 KOB. (insert laugh track here) .

One might wonder why I would pursue a news-free environment. Additionally, one might presume that I am undertaking this experiment in order to have something to whine and complain about. And they would perhaps be right. Still, I can't help but think there is a beneficial point or two to getting away from the sturm und drang of news, avoiding the soap opera of stories like Mt. Hood hikers, Obama, Iraq, etc. ad infinitum and just freeing up a small sliver of my small mind to observe what might be trapped in there, wedged into an even smaller corner by my easy access to news via the 'Net.

Or something like that. Hey, there's some dusty books over there! I remember books! Vaguely...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Resolve To Know Even Less Than I Do Now

Long time, no real blog. And it's not like I've been saving up a big manifesto to lay on you guys with lots of bullets, charts and such. Just a bit of vacation and the mindlessness that so sweetly accompanies it.

Speaking of mindlessness and vacations, I have an early New Year's Resolution. I know...what can be more interesting to hear about than someone else's Resolutions? But wait, this kinda applies to this whole blog thing. The idea is this: news/politics moratorium. Yeah, I know, not a new idea of any sort, but I'm gonna give it my own shot.

Here are the rules:

  • No visits to any news sites (except for the NYTimes, but only to get to the crosswords page). This rule was helped by letting our ABQ Journal subscription expire.
  • No visits to any politics sites like Daily Kos..not even to Tom Tomorrow to read the comic)
  • No viewing of any TV news. To be honest, this is damn easy as I stopped watching TV News years ago. (btw, I did happen across KOB news a few days back and have you ever noticed that Carla Aragon reads the news like she's talking to someone with a traumatic brain injury? A really bad one? One that involves feeding tubes and little more than blinks of recognition?)
  • And here's the toughest one of all: No watching "The Daily Show" or "Colbert Report". Fortunately the timing of those shows here in the Mountain Time Zone has always made it impossible for me to watch that days' show during work days...but with two weeks of vacation the temptation to watch late at night will be up there with the jones to keep pushing that button on a morphine drip.
Like most of it, I suck at keeping New Year's Resolutions. Like many of us, I've considered a "news/politics moratorium" off and on for years. The chance for any medium/long-term success here is exceedingly small. Still, this does bring up a small bloggin' question: just what the Hell will I write about now? Nobody, including me, wants to read someone Babblin' about NOT keeping up with the news. That would be like a Harlequin romance in which all the characters just sit at a tavern and drink beer all night. Like a Tom Clancy novel with sweeping detente between Us and Them than extends to the point of disbanding the CIA and KGB. Like even more boring than Burque Babble usually is.

On the other hand, I've always liked that Ken Russell stab at mainstream film "Altered States". You know, the one where William Hurt gets into isolation tanks and goes vaguely back in evolutionary time for reasons that never make any sense. Maybe a successful news/politics moratorium could be like that.

Maybe things could happen around me like Pete Domenici dying, Heather Wilson being appointed to fill out the term, a special election being held between Marty Chavez (who would switch parties) and Don Schrader, and Schrader would win when at the last second Marty would be caught with a farm animal in the back seat of his Hummer in the parking lot at Billy's Long Bar. And I would have missed the whole thing.

Nah, these Resolutions are never that great, even when you keep to them for any length of time. But I'm gonna give it a shot. As to what I blog about here, readers can probably look forward to lots of poorly mimicked Thoreau, mundanely contemplated philosophy that illustrates how empty your humble blogmaster's head is. And not empty in some sort of advanced Buddhist/Taoist sort of way. Just plain empty.

So you've got that to look forward to. Now, I've got to put my bathing suit on and get into that isolation tank.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Checkin' In From Pecos Wilderness

It's never good when you go to the Pecos to get some snow and it ends up snowing more at the corner of Carlisle and Comanche than it does up in Cowles. The Babble is pleasantly stuck up here where the snow matches the ponderosa pines and stellar jays a bit better than it does the parking lot of the Unitarian church. Staying in a radiant heated log cabin doesn't hurt, either.

Yet we have to drive home today and our rickety 'Net access here tells us that Burque is a huge bumper car arcade and La Bajada hill is, well, La Bajada hill.

Time for another hike through the snowy, car-free roadway toward Winsor Trail while the rest of the world sorts itself out.

Babble will be back to Babblin' shortly, pending a drive down said La Bajada and a leisurely sojourn amidst the other bumper car operators in ABQ.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

And We Still Fight Wars Over This Stuff?

Columnist Eric Lacitis at the Seattle Times asks some theologians and professors about the history of Christmas trees and gets some interesting answers. Lacitis' article is in response to a Christmas Tree brouhaha at Sea-Tac airport involving a local Rabbi.

I like the "100 days off a year from work" part. I'd almost fight a war to protect having 100 days of vacation a year. Feel free to use the article for those conversation downtimes when you're standing around the tree at boring Christmas parties holding an under-fortified cup of eggnog listening to someone drone on about the housing bubble, or watching the latest news report of religion-based violence somewhere around the world.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Money Good & Other Press-Release Revelations

I'm really glad we have an "Associated Press". I'm in favor the Press and I'm glad they got "associated" and all. I also have both enjoyed and been informed by AP stories over the years. But reading today's AP story about NM's $720 million surplus of "new money" in this morning's Journal is like taking a trip to stupid school. My "favorite" part:

"We're fortunate to have the amount of money we have in order to address the needs of New Mexico," said Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe, chairman of the LFC (Legislative Finance Committee).

Maybe it's because of my going back to high-octane coffee from the gentle, wafting buzz of English Breakfast tea, but quotes like that just bug the absolute bejeezus out of me. It's so press-releasey, so banal, so much a waste of newspaper space. I've been staring at that "quote" for about a half-hour now and it's sure to be stuck in my head the rest of the day like the lyrics to "Candyman" by Sammy Davis, Jr. when you accidentally come across it on the radio. I hate when that happens.

And it's not the only "ripped from today's press releases" quote in the thing. Here's another from Guv Richardson's office:

"The consistent strength of our economy gives me confidence that we can cut taxes, invest in our schools and make health care available to more New Mexicans, while maintaining prudent cash reserves," Richardson said in a news release.

At least that one comes with the admission that it's a press release. I don't want to get all Journalism school on the Journal's ass here, and I know this might be the French Roast talking, but why the Hell can't the Journal do their own story on the $720 million? And if they're going to succumb to AP, can't AP do a little more than just copy/pasting quote lines from press releases?

I say the Journal makes a New Year's Resolution to lose some fluff weight and goes AP-free for a while. Pay some reporters to work weekends (a radical thought that), and produce something more enlightening than:

"We're fortunate to have the amount of money we have in order to address the needs of New Mexico."

Or maybe I should just go back to English Breakfast.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Semantics with Professor Richardson (and Staff)

Words are important, vital to our ability to intellectually evolve as a species. One way to think about it is this: without words blogs like Burque Babble would cease to exist (well, except for those blogs with pictures of cute, cuddly kitty can't kill those even if you try). Wow, words really are important Mr. Pedantic Introductory Paragraph Writer Man! What incredibly profound point are you making this morning by informing us about the imporance of words?

Well kids, I'm here to let you know that some words and phrases are SO important that they have become news stories to replace real news stories, especially when the real news story is depressing and/or so obvious as to not really be a news story.

Take the word, "running", as in "Bill Richardson is running for President". Any sentient being with an IQ over 12 knows Richardson is already "running" for President, but until Richardson says he's "running" he's not "running". Heck, even if Richardson himself says he's "running, it doesn't really count until his campaign staff says he's "running". By the way, you might notice that words can also be funny things sometimes, as in a case where a "campaign staff" might deny a candidate is "running" for something. Oxymoronic, now that's a funny sounding word.

"Running" thus joins "Civil War" (okay we're tired of this one) and "Timetable", as in "The Iraq Study Group proposed that U.S. brigades be moved out of Iraq in 15 months, but stopped short of a timetable" in the lexicon of our political age. It's also interesting that when you combine the words "Cheney" with "lesbian" they cancel each other out in "Mary Cheney and her fellow lesbian partner are having a child together". This juxtaposition also seems to work now with the terms "Orthodox Jews" and "Gay Rabbis".

Funny, powerful things words. Or maybe just funny and a waste of time otherwise.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

And If You Give Me... Weed, Whites and a Cell-Phone

It often irks me that our elected officials have to spend way too much time deliberating restrictions on the stupidity of our citizenry. The latest case in Burque is the City Council debate over whether to ban driving while talking on a cell phone. Why do we need a City Council to tell us how stupid this is? Are we so out of touch with ethical right and wrong at this point that we need the government to tell us that being distracted while driving is stupidly dangerous?

Just as importantly, who could possibly think that their phone conversation is interesting/important enough to happen while driving a car? I've used the phone, used it pretty much all my life from time to time. I've had lots of phone conversations. After thinking about it for a while, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of phone conversations I've had in 40 or so years of phone use that were vitally interesting/important enough to warrant having them while driving a car.

Besides, what do we need phones and cell phones for? We have email. We have Instant Messaging for those too impatient to wait for an email reply. Phones and especially cell phones are for people far too much in love with the sound of their own voice, and the mistaken impression that what they and their friends say is even remotely interesting.

So, because of cell phone addicts and their Darwin Award-eligible antics on the roadways, the City Council has to debate an ordinance which might lead to our overworked law enforcement officials having one more thing to enforce that should be patently unnecessary to enforce.

Speaking of the legal side, the linked Trib story has varied views on how enforceable a cell phone ban would be. Enforcing such an ordinance would certainly be tough. One solution might be to have fellow citizens help identify cell phone using drivers by designating offender's vehicles as that of a violator.

Toward this end, Burque Babble presents, as a public service, slogans for a new series of bumper stickers. These stickers (designed with special non-removable adhesives) could be affixed upon the car of the offender either at a traffic stop or parking lot, or with the use of specially-designed retractable devices that could be implemented from moving car to moving car, ala those jet plane refueling nozzles you see during the credits for "Dr. Strangelove..." And now, Babble's suggested slogans for a bumper sticker enforcement campaign regarding cell phone violators:
  • Occupant Is Having Incredibly Boring Conversation, You Can Bet On It
  • Yes It Is Remarkable That Someone This Ugly Has Anybody To Talk To On the Phone
  • Brain Cancer Isn't Penalty Enough For This Loser
  • "Okay Honey, That's Milk, Bread and ....Oh My God I'm Running Into a Semi!" Click...
  • Darwin Award Winner In-Training
Please feel free to add your own bumper sticker slogan in the comments below...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Marty Chavez: Look Upon My Almost-Works Ye Mighty and Despair

From the man who almost built a downtown arena, bravely attacked the growing menace of "all-ages" music shows, and politically oversaw construction of that most mighty, awe-inspiring "Rio Line Train" running hundreds and hundreds of yards between Zoo and BioPark, Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez has unveiled his most grandiloquent public works project to date: almost getting a few miles of streetcar line built along Central Avenue.

The Little, Really, Really Little Train That Could:
Mass Transit on a Marty Scale at the Burque BioPark

Not since his work in taking undeserved personal credit for building Isotopes Park has Chavez exhibited the vision and political acuity seen in his work regarding the streetcar project. After striking out in attempts to get Legislative pork to fund the project, Chavez took the highly popular step of tacking the cost on as continuation of an existing transportation tax.

Inexplicably, a series of public forums around the city showed less than sparkling regard for the Chavez project and tax ideas. Presented with the sort of hard choices that spell the difference between great mayors and mayors who have a Hell of a time getting anything meaningful accomplished, Chavez bailed on the Streetcar project, consigning it to the bureaucratic purgatory of a "task force" to comprehensively study transportation issues in Burque. Kind of an Iraq Study Group for traffic and mass transit, no doubt empowered just as the Iraq Study Group has been shown to be.

Mayor Marty Chavez (in loud, deep announcer voice): He tamed the mighty two-lane Montano, he tore down the Berlin Wall that was the Blue Spruce, he almost did some other things...kinda.


Chapter Two, or as they say on the message boards... (/snark)

I am in favor of a Streetcar Project, but only if that project is part of a bigger, fantastically more thorough (i.e. expensive) mass transit model for Albuquerque. The Streetcar as smallmindedly envisioned by Chavez was to be a glorified "Rio Line Train", designed as much for tourist impression as transportation functionality. Having had some experience with the Portland, Oregon streetcar/light rail system, a streetcar is not a bad idea IF a city has the wherewithal to follow intra-downtown streetcars with truly significant adjoining rail alongside major roads into that downtown. It will take far more political acuity than has been shown by Mayor Chavez to make that fly (ur....glide) here.

The Streetcar That Wasn't episode does bring up a few other points:

  • Now is the time to talk dramatic expansion of the bus system in Burque. For example...our little 53 route in the South Valley still only runs every 40 minutes. As it turns out, that means I miss by one minute the 11 connector going from Alvarado to my workplace. I know I'm not alone with these frustrations. We need more buses and bus routes on ABQ Ride.
  • We need to expand bus service to later times throughout the system.
  • I did a bit of checking and it looks to me that the ABQ Ride budget for 2006 was something like $33 million (sorry, it's a PDF). I know it's not Streetcar-sexy, but for much less than Streetcar-sexy costs we can get more buses and bus routes on ABQ Ride.
  • Of course, we will need more carbon emission reducing buses like the RapidRide. What's the point of buses if ridership is small due to ride times and the bus carbon emissions are 15 times that of an individual car?

Of course these points are a small calving iceberg on the melting ice shelf that is Burque transportation. I agree that much "task force" style work needs to go into making a long-range transportation plan. The thing is, I see record of such planning already having been done by entities like the Rapid Transit Project. It certainly sounds like Mayor Chavez and Councilor Martin Heinrich are throwing around the "task force" study as little more than a political life preserver to the Streetcar, when they could have politically defended the Project using studies already done on the Streetcar itself (including the little expensive "artist rendering" drawings we mass transit junkies have seen on the ABQ Ride webpage for years now).

Large-scale public works/infrastructure projects are not for the politically squeamish. Looking around the country, one sees hugely expensive ideas bravely (and perhaps in some cases also stupidly) undertaken. I'm thinking of the "Big Dig" in Boston here, or the $3-4 billion rebuild of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle that I've been following as a former Emerald City resident. We could and should debate whether these projects are good ideas, but I bring them up to illustrate how far Burque mentally is from both stomaching such costs/projects and having the political leadership to help the citizenry mentally stomach them. We are so, so far away...instead let's go blow a few hundred thousand bucks on some more "task force studies". I'm really looking forward to the pretty "artist renderings" this time.

P.S.: We're still waiting for our Rail Runner stop here in the South Valley. A spurt of Journal/Trib stories last week indicated a newly estimated April opening for the stop. I know..I know, April of what year?'s supposedly April, 2007. It said so in the paper. I'll just stop right there, the joke possibilities are so immense I'll just leave them to you, Burque Babble reader to rattle off at your leisure.

P.P.S.: Mayor Marty's last blog entry is from June 22, 2006. I think we have to list this as another ALMOST ACCOMPLISHMENT of the Chavez Administration at this point. Of course, operating a blog is the quintessential major public works project. It's hard work...I should know. Tough, tough work. Not for the squeamish, political or otherwise. You don't have to tell me how hard it is. (/snark).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Building the Perfect Snow Wombat

I can't confirm it quite yet, but looking out my South Valley window this morning I'm estimating that today's two hour delay for APS schools is the single most laughable delay in my 13 or so years of teaching in Burque. Confirmation will have to wait until I make the treacherous drive from my almost snow-free driveway to what I can only guess will be a tangled mess of snow, smashed vehicles and blood running down gutters at the intersection of Lomas and Girard.

I'm not a native, and I have taught only 13 or so years, but the only competition to today's silly day was a morning about eight years ago when I drove from the North Valley to a school up near Lomas and Wyoming at 10:00 A.M. and the only record of any precipitation whatsoever was the occasional strip of scant white in the shady spots.

Of course, mentioning the ridiculosity of today's two hour delay is considered bad form by those throughout the K-12 community. Being the socially inept person that I am, I'm quite certain that I will state my view concerning the delay, a view which will be met with scoffing outrage by student and teacher alike.

"But it got us out of school for two hours, so shut up about it."

That's the company line both for our educational indentured servants and their teaching masters. Saying anything like, "Man, I wish we didn't have a delay" is looked upon as if the offender said "Man, I wish I could eat light bulbs and Reynold's wrap for lunch today".

And personally, I wouldn't mind having the delay if:

  1. We really had a snowstorm and could walk/play around in it this morning. Instead I'm bloggin', because all the snow in the SV today wouldn't make a snowperson any bigger than a snow wombat. A baby snow wombat.
  2. I didn't know that an "abbreviated day" (one of my favorite strange school terms) means: 1) show up two hours late; 2) talk about the snow for two hours; 3) scoff-at and ostracize Scot for bringing up the fact we shouldn't have had a snowday; 4) watch kids pathetically try to make snowballs out of nothing but white-colored dirt during lunch; 5) watch other kids go to the nurse's office after being hit with small rocks that were pathetically incorporated into the pathetic snow-lacking snowballs; 6) talk about the snow some more until the bell.
Some of you may think that someone who would complain about this morning's "snowstorm" is just a bitter, cynical old geezer who has lost all joy in life. Au contraire my little wombat friend. I'm the guy who spent hours on Tuesday night looking at Colorado highway webcam shots of a real snowstorm (you can ask my wife...she laughed at me the entire time). I'm the same guy who watched part of my first Monday Night Football telecast this year a few days back simply because it was snowing in Seattle and I love "snow football".

I love snow football. I love snow. The only problem is that in Burque proper we most frequently don't get snow, just a frustrating dusting or quick-melting blanket that doesn't last more than a few hours. And today I get to talk about this frustrating condition for five hours with students and teachers all jacked up because of a two hour delay, as if the two hours is time spared from some sort of Guantanamo Bay. As if the two hours is two fewer hours of waterboarding or something.

There have been occasions in my Burque teaching past where it has snowed and we haven't had a delay of any kind. On those days I've heard via media and personal contact from some parents freaking out with concern about the dangers of slushy streets and vaguely snow-covered medians. I know APS gets calls from some of these parents and that instituting a delay is easier than dealing with these rabid snowophobes. At the same time, what sort of dedication to education is evidenced by having a two-hour delay on a day like today? What does it say about our collective will to make schools professional places of "continuous learning"? How can we expect the kids to care, if we're just as giddy with a two-hour delay as they are?

Oh shut up, Scot and enjoy the snow. And you better get ready for school, it's already 9:10 and you have to be there by 10:30. Get to work at 10:30, get off work at 3:00. Who could possibly complain about that?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Short View of a "Shortbus"

Last night I joined seven other humans for the 6:15 showing of "Shortbus" at the Guild. The scant crowd enhanced the porno theatre atmospherics of John Cameron Mitchell's film. To me, I guess I'd sum up "Shortbus" as Rent-meets-A Confederacy of Dunces, but that's omitting the wide swath of actual bona-fide sex taking place throughout the first 2/3rds of the film. As for cinema that sticks with you, "Shortbus" is short-lived, but it does serve to emotionally lift and smash the viewer in a way that not only mimics sex, but life.

I could be flippant and say it's the best porno movie I've ever seen at the Guild, but instead I'll be flippant and say "Shortbus" is okay, but nothing to scream orgasmically about. It's also worth mentioning that the cast is fine, but the best acting is done by a fabulous 3-D model of Manhattan that Mitchell uses to glue scenes. Top notch work on the model..maybe the most impressive I've ever seen in a quasi-porno movie at the Guild.

"Shortbus" finishes its Guild run tomorrow, Thursday night the 30th.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Your Living, Breathing, Suffocating NM Constitution

The U.S. Constitution perfectly fits the oxymoronic description of "secular holy text" in this country. It's an incredible document brought to ultimate reverence by social studies teachers and praciticing lawyer alike. Heck, some folks feel it was divinely inspired ala The Ten Commandments.

But there is the Constitution and there's your run-of-the-mill constitutions. New Mexico's, for example. It seems the guiding legal light of Enchantoland does not allow school elections to be combined with other elections, meaning that ABQs streetcar tax extension vote can't be held alongside the upcoming school board election. And being the Constitution, our leaders are resigning themselves to defeat on the idea, instead of just coming out and saying "the Constitution is stupid".

Let me be the first to say the NM Constitution is stupid on this matter. Living in America, I think a bolt of lightning is supposed to strike me dead at this point. As no voltage seems to be running through me except for this Ceylonese Breakfast Tea I'm gulping, let me list some reasons why this is dumb:

  1. This is the same constitution that has us vote for googleplex judgeship races when 95% of us have no idea who the heck we're voting for, or against.
  2. School board races usually get a turnout percentage roughly equal to that of an avant-garde jazz concert. Combining these pitiful races with anything is a good idea. Unless the original idea was to have as few people vote as possible. Hmmm...maybe the NM Constitution is brilliant after all...
  3. Isn't it just the least bit funny that ABQ has to hold a costly election to continue a tax to build a streetcar that can't be combined with another costly election to "elect" some bozos to a school board that is widely ridiculed? There's a joke in there somewhere...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Al Gore: Swimming Through Antarctica

It was a dark and stormy night; in fact the night was moist.

Thanks for the comments regarding the writing of "novels" and such. Your humble blogger has decided to once again succumb to the icy, self-centered embrace that is novelwriting. He's also noticed that there is probably nothing as boring as hearing someone talking about their novelwriting. Nothing. So it's never being brought up again. I promise. Forget I ever mentioned it.

Plunging back into reality, people are right to point out that there are things worth enjoying and even laughing about, despite the fact that people keep setting each other on fire and all. Also despite the fact the wife and I finally saw "An Inconvenient Truth" last night and instantly created a series of beyond draconian population control methods (e.g., "all people who don't use turn signals will be executed immediately") in order to meet necessary Carbon Dioxide emissions reductions. With an estimate of 9.1 billion people worldwide by 2050 (or 2040...who's counting?), the turn signal is only a start. A good start in places like Albuquerque, but just a start.

And despite making the viewer immediately think of ultra-draconian and violent population control measures, the Al Gore movie is good for some laughs. Sadly, none of these laughs are the occasional joke gambits by Mr. Gore and the film's creators. Those jokes are sad beyond belief. What is funny is how many times Al Gore, Jr. says "I" and "my friend", as is "I started some Senate hearings on global warming and my good friend Scientist Bob came and told us how screwed we are".

A pretty intense drinking game can be created in which you have to down a shot whenever Al says "I" or "my friend". A very intense game, because this movie is really all about Al, and I don't understand why it has to be that way. It's all about Al and the greatest PowerPoint presentation in history. Gore doesn't say much that anyone who reads the papers doesn't already know, but he does have that killer PowerPoint going on. And a cartoon or two. Somehow I don't think the movie is gonna be nearly as effective in stopping global warming as the "kill non-turn signal people" concept. Not even close.

Another unintentionally funny thing about this movie is that it's rated "PG". Something about "Mild Thematic Elements". Who are these MPAA people? Oh yeah, there's a new documentary about MPAA called "This Film Is Not Yet Rated"...I'm waiting to Netflix that one. If you've seen it, hush, don't give away the plot or anything.

In the end, the unintentional humor in "An Inconvenient Truth" is outweighed by the sadness the film instills in the viewer. And no, I don't mean the intended sadness inculcation that the global warming problem is already here and ever-more-quickly destroying/altering the planet. Most everybody who decides to watch "An Inconvenient Truth" already knows that.

What's sad is that you can totally agree with everything Al Gore says, as I do, and still come away unimpressed with this "movie". It fails both as change agent and as documentary. As change agent, it relies far too much on the story of a person, a rather uncharismatic one, instead of the story of the science and what we little people can do. The film comes off as an "Al Gore 2008" campaign video, quite inexplicably so as that feeling just undermines the point of the film.

As documentary, it is one thing for Jonathan Demme or Stephen Soderbergh to simply film a Spalding Gray monologue. For those of us who are Spalding Gray fans Demme or Soderbergh could have just turned one camera on Gray and let the performance go untouched. But Al Gore and his +2 hit point vorpal PowerPoint aren't Spalding Gray. It's just boring, boring despite material that would be electrifying on PBS Frontline or POV. With "An Inconvenient Truth" I don't want to kill the messenger, I want to love the's just that I want him to go away.

In other words: great graphs, awesome charts, I miss Spalding Gray.

Friday, November 24, 2006

We've Hit a Dry Stretch In the Funny Department

You probably notice there hasn't been a posting in the last few days. Okay, you didn't notice because you stagger over to Babble only on days so tedious that you've already waded through 45 or so blogs and still the work day drags on. Trust me, on this singular point the blogger knows what he's talking about. No posts lately. Two simple reasons:

  1. The blogger once again considered the writing of a book. The mere bird flutter of a thought about writing a book inevitably causes your humble blogger to switch into Defcon-5 (or is that Defcon-1?...I get confused) level writer's block mode. A hat currently sits outside the Babble offices for well-wishers to throw small donations toward proper therapy for your humble blogger.
  2. Nothing funny has happened in recent days. You know when you wake up on the day after a fine Thanksgiving meal to see a headline about people burning other people alive that we're in a low-funny cycle. You also know this is the case when the only funnyperson news is Michael Richards going drunk European soccer hooligan on some comedy patrons. Yes, we haven't had any funny days now since Ted Haggard told us he bought the Meth, but threw it out the window and Katherine Harris and Rick Santorum got their asses kicked. Since then we've just been personally unwell, the number of people killing and burning other people alive has ratcheted up, 92-year old women are going out Bonnie Parker style, and Michael Richards is severely denting sales of "Seinfeld: Season Eight" DVDs. Not funny days.
Your humble folks at Babble are sincerely hoping the fickle finger of funny starts to swing from it's current El Nino position into a wetter, funnier pattern shortly. Maybe Donald Rumsfeld could quit again, or be caught on YouTube buying some meth from Ted Haggard or something to get the funny juices flowing. C'mon Rummy, you owe us some more funny, big time.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Education Writer's Block: A Defense

I've taught now for coming up on 13 1/2 years, and for around the last 10 I've considered writing some sort of book about education. On occasion this inclination has led to a bit of actual product, but each foray has lasted about 2,500 words before degenerating into an even bigger banal mess than readers see here in the typical Babble post.

I'm not one to practice much in the way of self-analysis, especially in regards to something as solipsistic as writing, but I have identified a few causes that have resulted in ever-weaker attempts to write 'bout education. Attempts even weaker than my writing norm.

It's hard not to notice that even the above is pretty lame-o stuff.

So why can't I give birth to a bouncing baby book about something I care about as much as education? Outside of the bio-systemic causes (my undiagnosed but quite obvious case of Attention Deficit Disorder prime among them) perhaps the biggest reason is my high level of concern for the topic itself. But is that really true?

I tell myself I care about education. I throw myself into it with a haphazard abandon that leads me to think of little else for nine months of the year. Yet, when I read what others write on the subject, I am quickly convinced once again that not only do I not care about education in the right way, but that others concerned about education inhabit an altogether different planet, galaxy, universe.

The inhabitants of this alternate universe exhibit the following characteristics:
  1. They are so &*%$#^* serious it makes your eyes bleed. Each and every one of them is written as if they are God chiseling on tablets. All education fun is dessicatingly sucked out of these works on the pretense that our "children" and "future" are too important for laughs. Such self-importance just cries out for satire and ridicule. Or maybe it's just me.
  2. Writers on education treat teachers/administrators as mad scientists and students as volatile chemicals. Education writing is all about experiments, failed experiments, untried experiments, unfunded mandated experiments. "If we only combined...." is a frequent phrase in education writing, as is hearty laughter at past failed experiments. Somehow the authors never consider that their own experiments might some day be just as laughable.
  3. Armed with supreme knoweldge of what was done wrong in the past, education writers bombastically proscribe what experiments should be put in place now and forever, immediately. Failure to do exactly what the writer proscribes is a crime against children. Opponents to the ideas of the author are freely compared to Hitler, or even worse, Albuquerque Public Schools.
  4. Underlying each of these works is a three-fold assumption: 1. K-12 education used to be better, but now it sucks; 2. The United States used to be smarter than it is now. 3. #1 has something to do with #2. Writing on education places supreme importance on what happens to students between 8:00 and 3:00 180 days of the year, and tends to forget what happens the other 17 hours a day and 185 days of the year. Possible influences in dumbing down Americans like television, video games and parents who watch tons of television are discounted relative to the supposed magic wand welded by educators on occasion from 8:00 to 3:00.
  5. Not to mention the possibility that Americans are no more stupid now than they have been since 1776. Let's face it...there have been a ton of not-too-terribly educated people...since...forever. Back in the Greek day, Plato wasn't exactly impressed with the knowledge base of the average Greek guy. Still, from reading today's education books one would get the impression that today's "citizens" are dumber than ever and getting dumber by the minute.
  6. Largely ignored by critics of the current educational system is the fact that for most of us the educational system of the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s did plenty of asinine things to us, and look how we turned out. For instance, I remember being taught how to write by a teacher constantly wielding one of those rubber ball-bouncing-on-a-string-paddles with the rubber ball and string removed. She went around whacking us for little or no reason quite frequently. Now, I can't write legibly to save my life, but that hasn't stopped me from writing completely illegible comments on my students' creative writing papers. We learn to adapt, to compensate for our own educational deficits, and these writers never seem to acknowledge that.
So, for the reasons above, I've been wanting to write an education book that reflects a very different reality than I see in the education writing of others. A book that gets into the FUN of teaching and learning, a book that compares teaching to playing in a jazz combo in the sense that it is an interactive improvisation, a jointly creative journey constantly bobbing and weaving amid some intellectual melody. Or that it's not such a journey and is really boring.

Upon further meditation, perhaps it's exactly because of the last paragraph that I will probably never finish writing a book on education. That education for me boils down to one sentence comparing teaching/learning to jazz playing, and that writing 250 pages on the subject would just be repeating the same line over and over 150,000 times. And that would be exactly what is wrong with education and education writing, in my way of thinking. We wouldn't expect or want Sonny Rollins to write 250 pages about a particular solo on "Blue 7", not to mention our disinterest of such a retelling by a local player at a ABQ jazz club (if such a club, in fact, existed).

In other words, it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that.... and you don't need to read, or write, a book to figure that out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Touch Me, I'm Sick: Feeling Grungy In the 505

Possible reasons why everybody in Albuquerque, including me, is currently unwell:

  • Al-Qaeda introduced virus into Burque water supply
  • Immune systems suppressed by wait for Madrid/Wilson race results
  • Local custom of greeting others by licking hand instead of handshake
  • That Diet Coke we shared last Sunday
  • "Vagrants, gang-bangers, hookers and druggies" at the El Vado Motel
  • APS Thanksgiving Meal served today with virulent green beans
  • Small, but incredibly pointy alien spacecraft have flown/landed inside our small intestines
  • Nancy Pelosi, because she's responsible for everything now
  • That necklace around Nancy Pelosi's neck that controls everything including the incredibly pointy alien spacecraft
  • Genetically evolved viruses and bacteria adapting to drug remedies such as antibiotics, antihistamines and Jack Daniels
  • Not saying "Bless You" when people sneeze, thus unleashing an angry God who allows genetic evolution simply as a means to punish us
  • Karl Rove's secret plan to lower voter turnout, just a couple of weeks late
  • Liberals and their morally bankrupt secular gay lifestyle
  • The existence of fiendishly conceived fecund virus breeding grounds otherwise known as middle schools
  • Critically low threshold of pirate population reached due to global warming, as indicated by this graph from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Notes: 1) Yes, the Flying Spaghetti Monster thing is SO 2004, but I've been waiting to throw that cool graph in since, forever; 2) By "pointy spacecraft" we mean spacecraft that make our small intestine feel as if it is trying to pass one of those medieval spikeballs knights swung around. You know, like this:

but with bigger spikes; 3) You might wonder why APS would serve its "Thanksgiving Meal" a full week before Turkey Day. So did we, and they even stiffed us on the dressing and cranberry sauce this year; 4) Here's hoping you are not one of those currently unwell in Burque, but, let's face it, you know it's only a matter of time, especially after we just licked your hand in greeting.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Babble Meta Discussion I: Waiting For Godot/Wilson

It's easy to tell that the bloggin' community is in a collective post-Patsy/Heather hangover, and Burque Babble is fully participant in the malaise, popping ibuprofen and stretching intellectually only as far as to change the remote control from channel to channel.

The geologic pace of vote counting probably isn't helping, but we Burque bloggers need to get off the couch, throw the remote into the newly rekindled fireplace, do some tai-bo and get past the mental sludge created by Election 2006. Let's treat this time as the dawning of a new age. Yeah, like Aquarius, or the Pleistocene. Let's make some New Age Resolutions and commit to following them at least until the next time-wasting distraction dominates our time as much as Madrid/Wilson did.

The following are a few possible New Age Resolutions (NARs) for Burque Babble (I'm still on the couch, remote in hand, merely contemplating these resolutions at this time):
  • Forewith stop any and all political blogging until a time at which Scot can think of the word "politics" without immediately gagging.
  • Turn Burque Babble into the preeminent literary blog in New Mexico, with frequent uses of words/phrases like "meta", "crepuscular dawn" and "post-modern".
  • Make Burque Babble the preeminent ranting about education blog in New Mexico, including words/phrases like "rant", "Mary Lee Martin" and "standardized testing".
  • Lose the words, and just post pictures of my dogs, cats, horses and goats.
  • Strictly post pictures of my goats, but also tell funny stories about them, perhaps including how the funny stories are actually parables illuminating incredibly deep concepts such as redemption and Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean character.
  • Join the ever-growing legion of those who have succumbed to the forces of the dark side by turning Babble into a "Bill Richardson for President" blog.
  • Lose any remaining shred of pretense that anyone should take anything said in Babble seriously, and instead stick with writing unintentionally unfunny things just like I've always been doing.
  • Join the ever-growing legion of those who have succumbed to "Borat" fever by turning Babble into the "Entertainment Tonight" of Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen and deliberately uncomfortable comedians and their craft. Entries could include, "Are People Who Haven't Seen Borat Yet Losers?" and "Michael Moore's 'TV Nation': The Seminal Show That Led to Everything from The Colbert Report to Ali G"
  • Note to self: That "TV Nation" riff is gold, Jerry, gold!
  • Stop doing silly, unfocused posts with bulleted lists of unintentionally unfunny things, slap yourself out of this election hangover and get back to writing on the same incoherent mishmash of topics covered over the 250 or so posts of Burque Babble up to this point.
Ah, I can't's such a long list and my brain is dulled to flatline trying to remember the difference between Provisional Ballots and In-Lieu Ballots. Think I'll head to the medicine cabinet for some more ibuprofen and make today's 1000th fruitless trip to the Journal site to see if any new vote totals have come out.

I'll get to this Resolution business tomorrow. And if not by then, surely by the time the Madrid/Wilson vote count or the Holocene geological epoch is over. Whichever comes first.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The More Important Things: Episode One

Oly and wife Emily

Our golden retriever of five plus years, Oly, had a epileptic seizure this afternoon. He's had a few over the years, and this one seemed to last longer than the others. Then again they always seem to last an eternity. He's fine now, lying back in that love seat he's adopted in a straddling, ultra-relaxed fashion for years now.

I can't recall ever posting a picture of the O-Man on the Babble...and on days like today one wants to make sure everyone in the world knows how wonderful one's good friends are. Thanks for everything, Oly, you're the greatest.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Life Beyond Vote Counts

Yes, they are still counting votes. Yes, the counting of each individual vote evidently involves performing all the feats of Hercules, building all Seven Wonders of the World, and making it through a Friday happy hour at O'Neill's.

But enough of that. Let's escape from the cave that is politics, shield our eyes, and look upon the unfamliar landscape of the real world. What stimuli might exist that would be worthy of our heretofore politiporn-obsessed brains? Music, perhaps?

First and most importantly, the Pixies movie loudQUIETloud is coming to The Guild starting Monday. How many times have you wanted to see a Guild flick and missed its short run because it was short and because you are starting to have some rather major memory deficits? Well, directly imprint this information onto whatever section of the brain handles memory stuff (I forget which one it is):

loudQUIETloud, Guild, Monday the 13th through Thursday the 16th.

As in it's over by next Friday. By the way, upcoming weeks at the Guild look good, between John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus, Death of a President and fewer samurai films. I gotta admit, I've reached samurai saturation at this point.

Those preferring quietquietquiet to LOUDLOUDLOUD can join old fogies like me at the upcoming NMSO "Mozart and the Masters Festival at the National Hispanic Cultural Center November 17-19. Conductor Figueroa and his crew will be breaking the mad beats of not only DJ WAM (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), but also J.S. Bach, Haydn, and (imho) some less tasty Romantic stuff like Schubert. Personally preferring the chamber stuff to full orchestra, I'd go with the November 19th third set because it has a Mozart piano quartet and the Beethoven septet. But then again, I'm an old fogy/fogey/fogie.

Before I head off to my laz-y-boy to watch the Matlock marathon on TV Land, I want to mention one more thing musical. Everyone who reads Burque Babble needs to go to the Calexico show on December 3rd. Of course being the un-hipster old guy that I am rapidly becoming I didn't even know about this show until last night, but I think it would be way cool if Burque Babble readers, all four of them, would show up for this gig at the Launchpad. Maybe I could make like Vanity Fair or some big-time mag and reserve the upstairs couch for Babble readers. Which brings up the question, does the Launchpad even have the couch anymore? I haven't seen a Launchpad show since, jeez, Yo La Tengo I think. Then again, there haven't been too many Mozart shows at the Launchpad lately.

So there is a, largely unexplored, world beyond provisional ballots and premature declarations of electoral victory. Feel free to join me and escape from the voting crypt for some rockin' & Mozartin' good times. We Rick Santorum haters feel like dancing these days, anyway.

P.S.: And yes, we've all seen the concession speech still photos, and yes they are funny beyond funny well into scary funny. Whenever I get down in the dumps in future years I will look at those photos for solace, for inspiration, for the knowledge that however screwed up I may be, I will not be as screwed up as Santorum has almost certainly made his own family. Ciao, Rick, keep it wingnutty.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Mea and Mary Culpa

Two mistakes to talk about this morning:

One is mine. Somewhere along the line I got the idea that the new makeup of the Senate was
Democrats 51
Republicans + Joe Lieberman 49

but it's
Democrats + Joe Lieberman 51
Republicans 49

so if Joe Lieberman was to become a full-fledged Republican he would make it 50-50. This gives Joementun alot of possible power, I guess, in the same sort of way that third-party mass transit candidate in Viriginia had an influence in the Senate race there.

I haven't heard any news to indicate Joementum is switching parties, but I was wrong about the influence he could have if he did. Sorry.

Mistake #2 is Mary Herrera. Note I'm not saying Mary Herrera's mistake...I'm saying Mary Herrera IS a mistake.

I'll skip the whole Wilson/Madrid brouhaha, as we are all following that, but did you see the story this morning about the Spanish translation of the ballot? Two quotes from the ABQ Journal story:

"Many of the translations were appalling, at best," said Conny Nichols, referring to the Spanish wording of the local bond issue questions.
"I have never seen a poorer translation done of such crucial information," said Nichols, a member of New Mexico's Translators and Interpreters Association.

and my favorite

Although she's bilingual, Herrera said she did not read over the Spanish questions because she does not read or write Spanish.

Herrera is also a good County Clerk except for the lousy, potentially law-breaking elections she runs, and the pitifully poor ballots she constructs. She'll make an excellent Secretary of State. No news from Herrera on whether she's sorry about anything yet. Maybe she's finding out how to translate "I'm sorry" into Spanish.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

BB's 2006 National Hockey League Update, Sort of

What about those Buffalo Sabres?!? And the performance of their Right Winger Maxim Afinogenov? It’s been an exciting first month of the thirteen month NHL season what with goal scorers like Marion Hossa & Ilya Kovalchuk lighting it up for the Atlanta Thrashers…

Okay, I can’t do it. I can’t leave things Election 2006 quite yet. Not on a day in which the Tower Card in the Bush Administration tarot deck is shuffled out like last week’s garbage, meant to take the stink away from a good ‘ol fashioned ass-whupping. Rumsfeld’s figurative head on a pike is good times, people, good times.

A figurative representation of how some of us possibly see Donald Rumsfeld

But back to the ass-whupping. It’s “final” in a way that doesn’t quite seem final, but it looks like Webb has semi-kinda-officially won Virginia and the Democrats have taken the Senate. That’s good news, but not nearly as good as: 1. the Republicans have lost control of the Senate; 2. Joe Lieberman can go ahead and complete his two-year Benedict Arnold program and become that rare bird, the Blue State Jewish Republican, and it won’t matter. Not that Joe ever really has mattered, not really.

Oh, there’s plenty of rough road ahead, plenty of tarot cards still left to wreck our fortunes, tons of Lame Duck blocking maneuvers to endure on the road to getting us out of the six year hole we’ve had dug for us.

But boy does it feel good to use the term “Lame Duck”….Quack tarot Hierophant card, quack!

Okay, it's not anywhere close to perfect,
but this card at least mutters G.W. Bush to me

Or maybe this card is closer...

More locally, everything turned out about the way we in the ultra-powerful bloggin’ community envisioned. Admittedly, that’s a jokey inside reference to a discussion on last night’s KNME Election Coverage about the influence of blogs on elections. It’s only remotely funny if you saw the “blog segment” last night, and if you did I apologize and feel like I owe you a quarter or something for the time you wasted.

Thanks, however, to Kevin at KNME for a well-done segment on our class debates over at Jefferson MS, as well as to moderator Gene Grant and the other panelists who refrained from laughing out loud and rolling their eyes at the preposterous things I said. You guys are good people.

But I digress.

More close to home, the Babble is overly proud of the fact that he correctly picked all the obvious winners, missing only the Auditor race, not realizing that the State of New Mexico is progressive enough at this point to accept a bald State Auditor. It’s not quite the same as the first female U.S. Speaker of the House, but it’s something worth noting.

Then there is the 600 lb. ballot box gorilla that is Madrid/Wilson. What more can be said about this race? Heck, what more could have been said about it a month ago? As loyal Babble readers know, your humble prognosticator picked Wilson from the get-go and it looks like both he and Wilson are gonna luck out into a win. With Wilson being slightly luckier than me, in that I didn’t want Wilson to win.

Oh well, maybe it’s better to win a few “entertainment purposes only” wagers than to be represented by a person in Congress you agree with more than 1% of the time. Or maybe it’s not. Yeah, it’s probably not. But at least the House itself turned bluer than a azure sky in deepest summer, and it won’t seem to matter quite as much that our local representative votes with her Lame Duck President 100% of the time.

Meanwhile, say hello to our fairly-soon-to-be-new Senator from New Mexico, Heather Wilson.

As for Patsy Madrid, we ‘Mericans are tough on losers, and while I don’t know her (I shook her hand once), I feel sorry for the woman on a number of levels. At the same time, in a district that has always been close to 50-50, the fact that Madrid couldn’t take out Wilson in a year like this is pretty damning. I mean, if you couldn’t do it in 2006, when the Hell could you have done it?

And while it looks like I wasn't wrong on Wilson v. Madrid, I was evidently very wrong about one thing: Debates sometimes do matter. But perhaps they only matter when the debater does as lousy a job as was unfortunately turned in by Patsy Madrid. I'm not a big schmoozer and can't say that I talk to tons of people about this stuff, but in my dinky world just about the entire universe has taken time to tell me how bad they thought Patsy was in that debate. Unusually bad. Shades of Vice-Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot's running mate in 1992, bad. Just not good at all. As in the word "cringe" is often employed in the retelling. That bad.

Again, oh well. Nevertheless, the NM-1 race is like the single fly buzzing around the six pieces of lemon chess pie I’m metaphorically savoring right now. And Jim Webb beating, semi-kinda-officially, George Allen in Virginia is the extra flaky crust that makes the lemon tang just that much more special. I know, I know, when a guy on the farther Left starts salivating profusely about a moderate-to-right politician who served proudly in the Reagan administration, times are weird indeed.

But six years of W will do that to ya. It’s been a long six years. So long I don't want to even think about it tonight. Hand me another piece of lemon chess pie, would ya Mr. President, and quack, baby, quack!


  1. Rick Santorum getting absolutely pummeled in Pennsylvania
  2. Mark Foley still almost winning Florida's 16th District
  3. Donald Rumsfeld
  4. Patsy pausing for an unnaturally long time before speaking at her 11:30 PM speech at the Election Night Party
  5. (tie) J.D. Hayworth getting beat in AZ-5; Conrad Burns getting eeked by in Montana
  6. Because five isn't enough....Mary Herrera going straight from oversight of a somewhat botched election as Bernco County Clerk to NM Secretary of State

Okay, enough already, on with the NHL season!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election 2006: A Few Supremely Uneducated Guesses

Updated 6:42 AM 11/8/06: What time did I get to bed? How many hours of sleep did I get? Answers: 2:00 and 4. There was a day back in the day where that would be no big deal. That day passed some years ago. I stayed up past the point where Torrance County and a shrinking lead in Bernco at the end put Heather on top, and long enough to look at Montana Senate votes trickle in with beyond Bernco slowness.

But boy was it wife called me an election nerd last night. Guilty. Still, even as the recounts begin I'm considering a six-month hiatus on anything political. Anything. Expect to see Burque babble entries strictly about goats, foreign films and baseball until at least Spring Break. Unless that Burns guy or Allen guy win through some recount brouhaha...

Meanwhile...I've got a chance to have been right on every pick except Balderas, even the overall House/Senate ones. There's one I wish I hadn't been quite so right about, but let's see how that plays out today...

Happy Election Day Everybody

After a good night's sleep and an abbreviated perusal of NM weather details and such, here's a bunch of complete seat-of-the-pants guesses. Interesting numbers from JoeMonahan this morning concerning lower turnout than mid-term 2002. His figures combined with my own suspicions about human laziness in general and voter enthusiasm for Election 2006 in particular lead me to suppress Democratic numbers by a couple of percentage points across the board. Outside ABQ there wasn't much to get excited about here, and in the ABQ area if Patsy couldn't get you to the polls you just might not be going at all.

And low turnout might well be the political death of Patsy. Of course there are a ton of other factors at work, including how voters respond to this year's ultra-retro paper ballot. More straight-party voting? If so, does that matter? Many, many possibilities to consider as we meander through an Election work day. As a schoolteacher, I get the added bonus of having my workplace be a voting site. To me, midterm elections mean awful parking and the library is closed.

Keep in mind: 1. The following numbers are for entertainment purposes only; 2. anybody using these numbers to place actual wagers has a rather pronounced gambling problem and needs to call the Gambler's Anonymous Hotline at (505) 260-7272; 3. Meanwhile, I'll take Balderas plus the six and a two-play Lyons/Lewis teaser...anybody?

The Only Race That Matters in the Whole World:
Wilson 51.5
Madrid 48.5

Update 10:43 PM: Oh, did I say Wilson 51.5%? I meant to say.....nah, I'm sticking with the Wilson pick until Heather's cold, politically distant fingers are removed from the seat....

Bingaman 64
McCulloch 36

Richardson 62
Guy who isn't Richardson 38

Secretary of State:
Herrera 52
Perea 48

State Auditor (this guess goes beyond guess to simply finding two numbers that add to 100):
Garcia 54
Balderas 46

State Treasurer:
Lewis 56
Padilla 44

Attorney General:
King 59
Bibb 41

Land Commissioner:
Lyons 54
Baca 46

Updated 3:29 PM: Oh..I forgot to include a few things.

ABQ Quality of Life:
Yes: 41
No: 59 (makes me a little sad, but there's probably a better way to structure/campaign for something like this, at least I hope there is)

U.S. House:
Republicans: 205
Democrats: 230 (I'm much more optimistic nationally than I am in NM-1)

U.S. Senate:
Republicans: 49
Democrats: 51 (okay, maybe I'm flooding with an optimism bordering on blind hope...but I say McCaskill in MO & Webb in VA both win, putting the Senate in a Lieberman-free zone past 50-50).

"See" some of you via the one-way mirror that is television tonight...try not to laugh too hard.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Burque Babble's Rockin' Election Eve: 2006

About two years ago tonight I was plopped down before C-SPAN watching John and Teresa Heinz-Kerry introduce Bruce Springsteen at a huge election-eve rally in Cleveland. The Boss praised the Kerry's for a bit, then sang "Thunder Road" in the chilly wind of an early November in northern Ohio. Even in the single-camera world of C-SPAN it was clear that the audience was ebullient and confident. Only a few hours remained until the Democrats would take back Ohio, the Electoral College and the country.

I sat there watching and it was hard not to get choked up.

For the roughly half of us who saw the George W. Bush years 2001-2004 as one continuous collective surreal nightmare, Election Eve '04 was like a combination of Christmas Eve and the night before the Prom rolled up together. We knew the next day was gonna be great, just knew it, but a frail, small voice within us wondered "what if it's not as great as we think it will be?"

Then The Boss sang about "Mary" and her dancing "across the porch as the radio plays" and that inner voice was easily subdued. Even for some of us more cynical types.

After months and months and months and years of waiting, maybe Kerry really could win. Okay, we weren't that excited about Kerry...he seemed about as much like us as the cartoon aliens on "The Simpsons", he was richer than most South American countries, his sense of humor was somewhere between Margaret Dumont and Anderson Cooper. But he wasn't Bush, and he was what we had, and Bruce was singing to him and his wife and 100,000 or so chilly people in a state we had to win. Just had to.

Many of us woke up not only happy because of a day off, but because we had somehow become convinced it was gonna be the first glorious day of the rest of our soon-to-be-George W. Bush-less life. It was especially great to be in New Mexico, because we happened to be living in a state where votes mattered. It was gonna be close, but we were gonna prevail. A bit of work, a dash of worry, and then a loud, and somewhat boozy chorus of "Born in the U.S.A." when it was clear we had taken the country back. It was gonna be great, small voice be damned.

It was gonna be great, and then it wasn't.

Which brings us to Burque Babble's Rockin' Election Eve: 2006. LIke any good soap opera, the plot really hasn't moved that much forward in the last two years. We're here again, the night before something potentially fantastic, almost probably so, really. At least one house of Congress should go to the Democrats, and while that's not the same as giving W the personal boot, it's as close as we're gonna get until that happy day in late January 2009 when he slithers out of D.C. for good. We've got a shot not only to smash the congressional rubber stamp, but to make a electorally verified statement to the world that we aren't quite as crazy as we appeared back in '04.

But we're also two years older, and just two years removed from the stomach punch that was '04. So we are filled to overflowing with worry. We obsess on the magic of Karl Rove, the dark mysteries of Republican GOTV, the villainous shenanigans of "Robocalls" and electronic voting. We also think way back, to 2000 and the mother of all villainous shenanigans, where the Republican GOTV for nine robed justices far surpassed the Democrats.

For a few months after Election Eve '04 I avoided anything having to do with politics. Like many others, I investigating relocating to other parts of the world, read with amusement web sites created to provide U.S. citizens with photographic proof to the rest of the world that not every American was crazy, and rehabilitated my perforated stomach through a steady diet of politics-free news.

I don't remember exactly what drug me back into caring, what combination of event and personal healing brought me back to following things political again. But here I am tonight, stomach scarred and acidic, trying to stay brave and face another Election Eve of hope and apprehension.

A few things are different. First, I'm avoiding C-SPAN like a karaoke bar. Not risking that again. Second, I'm trying real hard to avoid any contact with any blog this evening, regardless of how politiporn sexy the many "Robocall" voter suppression blogthreads are. Just a quiet night here with the least that's the idea.

Third, and most obvious/important: we won't get fooled again. Or should I say, I won't. Like the guy who's prom night date leads only to a soul crushing break-up, I'm not emotionally investing myself in the Madrid/Wilson race. I'm not gonna go into a multi-month fugue state if the Democrats don't take a house of Congress. I'm gonna just keep remembering those really corny lines from really corny songs like, "The Sun will come out tomorrow" from "Annie" and "There's got to be a morning after" from the original "Poseidon Adventure".

Yes, I realize that humming these horrible songs to one's self is probably worse than just about any possible pain caused by a election defeat, but you didn't see the condition of my punched stomach on Election Night '04. Even songs from "Annie" don't compare with the ugliness that night produced.

So, Happy Rockin' Election Eve: 2006 everybody! May we all enjoy tomorrow as the great expression of democracy it so certainly is, and have a blast following all the wacky results about 24 hours from now. Regardless. Really.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Madrid/Wilson Final Polling: You Can Open Your Eyes Now

It's still within the margin of error, but Patsy holds onto her lead in the Journal poll released this morning. Given all the verklemptitiousness since the KOB debate, how many Madrid supporters must have carefully shielded their eyes as they grabbed the Journal this morning, only slowly, so very slowly making a space between the fingers that enabled them to see the shocking news?

Maybe debates really don't matter that much, after all.

Debates might not matter, but GOTV does. Between margin of error and getting the voting meat in the booth seats, Madrid/Wilson should be good for a long night of fingernail-shortening. Over/under on declaration of a about 1:00 A.M? With paper ballots and Benco being Bernco...that might be too early.

And while we're making fundamentally unfounded guesses, here are a few more:

It's pretty clear Lyons is holding on to the Land Office, making it an almost complete sweep of boring races at the state level. Vickie Perea v. Mary Herrera for Secretary of State looks like the only close race, with Mary's hair shield currently retarding Perea infiltration in the polls.

Getting back to Lyons/Baca, it seems to me that Baca's strong pro-environmental views aren't having much effect. The weakness of the environment as an issue this cycle illustrates how voters don't connect the quality of the environment to the quality of their own lives. This disconnect makes me want to violently shake every voter, slapping them like the sleepwalkers that they are. Oh well, who needs glaciers?

By the way, speaking of environmentalists...anybody on a percentage guess on David Bacon in PRC District 4? Can he get 20%?

In the end, Election Night is shaping up to be all about what it's all been about every since Patsy Madrid said she'd run against Heather Wilson. 55 hours or so until the polls close, the only thing more exciting than NM-1 is the fact that the damn thing is almost over. The recorded calls, the faux polls, the tacky mailers, the Clintons/Lauras/Pelosis....almost done for another go-round.

I feel like Lance Armstrong running the New York Marathon today, and I haven't really done anything this election cycle. Finish sight...must make finish line...calves tightening past point of...must make line....arghhhhhhhhhh...

Good luck making it to the finish line everyone.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Beneath A Blizzard of Cardstock

You know I've been on the fence in the Madrid/Wilson race...but this 2,417th (insert candidate name here) mailer I just got has really got me thinking. The previous 2,416 mailers had no effect, none whatsoever. But the 2,417th one is swaying me. It's really got me thinking....

Speaking of mailers, this last weekend pre-Election should be good for some of the most unfounded, unfair and unfathomably illogical pieces of cardstock sleaze ever. I fully expect plenty of guys French-kissing guys, U.S. flag draped coffins dripping blood and graphically intense photos of aborted fetuses piled upon befouled flags and Bibles. Thank whatever deity or probability-wheel you choose to worship, it's almost November 7. Only a few more days of this cardstock crap left.

P.S.: Special dishonorable mention to Republican State Treasurer candidate Demesia Padilla for her mailer comparing her ethics to those of James B. Lewis. The ethical points made were ridiculous, trivial and a waste of trees, ink and time ("Bill Richardson gave Lewis money for his campaign!"). But she sure as shootin' got a picture of Lewis on the mailer, just letting everybody know that she's running against a "Black Man". A nice, big as her own picture of Lewis. Nice and big, prominently displayed up there on the top left corner. Subtle, Demesia, subtle.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

You Are There: New Mexico Voting Cubicle, 2006 A.D.

I just returned from a visit to a sort of Colonial Williamsburg of government bureaucracy. A trip back in technological time somewhere between Johannes Gutenberg and the IBM Selectric III electric typewriter. But closer to Gutenberg and the movable type. Quite a bit closer.

I went to vote today.

Conspiracy theories, plausible software hacking stories and verified flipflopping vote tally tales be damned...I hate paper ballots.

Combined with its presence at a cramped, dilapidated strip mall location, stuck between Little Caesar's and a Payday Cash Loanshark storefront, the antiquated early voting spot at Rio Bravo and Isleta in the South Valley reminded me quite a bit of going to a Guatemalan post office...but with even less assurance that my documents were going to be delivered on time, if at all.

I won't go into massive detail...Hell, we're all going to be voting. So I'll just touch on a few things I found interesting:

  1. I loved the humor in being able to vote "Straight Ticket Green Party". Perfect for those David Bacon fans who are too lazy to even mess with finding his race at the bottom of first column. Circle one thing and bam! you're ready to hit the Little Caesar's for some crazy bread.
  2. Instructions were quite specific that voters had to make selections with a "special" writing instrument. The "special" instrument turned out to be a 29 cent Bic pen.
  3. I'm 45 now, and must be getting old enough to be susceptible to butterfly ballots and such...personally I found the ballot confusing. It was especially so on the back, where the For/Against boxes threw me for a minute or two. Which For/Against went with which Bond Proposal? Then I noticed the big culprit. At least in my precinct Judge Sharon Walton's retain vote box is stuck at the top of the back page...throwing all the little bond/amendments stuff slightly off. At least it threw it off to me for a bit. Plus, with my 29 cent Bic pen I knew I couldn't erase if I messed up filling out those little ovals. Could I even get another ballot? Do those cost extra?
  4. Speaking of filling out ovals, the whole voting exercise reminded me of taking the SAT. I could have used a cheat sheet for all those judgeship races.
  5. When finished marking my Conspiracy God Be Praised (CGBP) all paper ballot, I walked to a scanning machine and fed my CGBP ballot into this electronic machine. You know, like an electronic touch screen voting machine, but without the touching part. You know, the electronic part that makes voting simpler because the type is all big and you just touch a huge 'ol circle with your know, that part?
  6. Speaking of type size...yes I did have to use my dork-o-rama reading glasses. There was also a quaint gigantic piece-o-magnifying plastic in the mouse-doing-a-maze sized voting cubicle. Again, I was reminded of taking the SAT as my micro-cubicle was about the size of a student desktop at a really crowded school that can't afford decent furniture.

Lastly, back to the paper ballot thing. I realize that we now have a "paper trail", making the electronic scanning machine only one step on the road to voting verification. Nevertheless, I still hate paper ballots. Elections were stolen before the advent of touch screen voting, and I'm not worried about them being stolen more frequently using touch screen voting. Then again, I bank online, pay bills online. Heck, I even have a blog.

Yes, I want safeguards and all...I just think a more modern system can be designed that includes both ease of use and verification. NM Election 2006 ain't it. I pity those voting on Election Day itself...the lines will be murder, the confusion widespread.

Not to mention what will happen if they run out of those "special" Bic pens.

Update: As you probably know, Jeff Jones in this morning's Journal has a story about the voting process this year and its lack of auditing oversight. The more I think about it, the more I move from simple bemusement to sardonic belly-laughing about the whole thing.

For instance, perhaps you've already voted as well, and have felt that abject vulnerability as you slide your CGBP paper ballot into the scanner, and.....nothing. No veriification of ANYTHING on your ballot, just the simple increase (via 1983 Kaypro graphics card green readout) by one of ballots through that particular machine. No double-check. No "This is how your ballot looks, if correct press yes below". Nothing but your abjectly vulnerable soul scuffling past the rickety voting cubicle, out the dilapidated door of the ill-smelling strip mall storefront, past the Little Caesar' to your car in the paint-faded, bumpy parking lot, your exercise in Democracy complete.

Monday, October 30, 2006

What's So Funny About Blogs, Love and Understanding?

I took a blog vacation this past weekend, writing nothing and visiting next to same as I airily reposed in a near blog-free existence. It was like when you stop drinking coffee in that I felt a combination of lowered tension along with the recurring realization that I was moving palpably slower than everything around me. It was like cutting caffeine, but without the headache. I didn't even mind the slowness, the dullness growing as I became more and more distant from the blogosphere.

Then last night I made the mistake of going to Daily Kos and it was like merging back into the expressway after a weekend in the country. Everyone flipping everybody off, manic verbal swerving, pervasive paranoia about Karl Rove, Diebold, the mainstream media, other Daily Kos posters, big tent Democrats, European Social Democrats, and Karl Rove again.

It made me contemplate the idea of just staying on the access road, turning back to the country and buying that little farmhouse we saw out past Mountainair. The one without Internet access.

But here I am: tanned, rested, and only a little ambivalent about merging into that traffic.

Tonight in honor of the Madrid/Wilson race I'm listening to Yo La Tengo's new album...the one entitled "I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass". Do I even need to mention which candidate that title is meant to inspire?

Speaking of blogs, candidates and beating your ass, I have to admit I'm pretty sick at this point of just about every NM blog when it comes to "analysis", "reportage" and "insight" on Election 2006. And that includes Burque Babble. In fact, put Burque Babble #1 on the list of blogs I'm sick of in this regard. I don't mind.

No, I'm not suggesting all bloggers go back to the classic blog entries: that back soreness from working out yesterday at the gym, the new restaurant we went to that had the prettiest tablecloths, feelings of angst and contemplation on what that angst means for the rest of the world. No, God no, nothing like that. Although, now that you mention it, my back is a little sore....

What I'm suggesting is a simple corrective that, if implemented, would perhaps add a bit of perspective into the vitriol and mouthfoaming that is Bloggelection'06. Namely, all bloggers have to change sides until Election Day. FBIHOP and Johnny Mango, for instance, would start writing entries about the positives of Representative Heather Wilson, while Mario Burgos would pen video-filled rationales for voting Madrid.

Duke City Fix would quit pretending it isn't slanted and stop having 57 commented posts about whether it's slanted and how its slant evidences itself in Andrea Lin's food review on pancakes. Maybe Andrea Lin could start praising waffles instead, or something. JoeMonahan would just quit pretending about, uh, everything (objectivity, relevance, that the politico ads don't matter).

, WednesdayMorningQuarterback, MPyre...they'd all have to take off their own rose colored glasses and replace them with the opposite model. Just for a week. Heck, even Madridforcongress and Heatherforcongress could get into the act. it would be easier for them anyway, as they often have the opposite candidate featured on their websites.

I'll get us started. As a "liberal" blog I'm supposed to like Patricia Madrid and hate Heather Wilson (I know, I keep forgetting according to some people). So here goes my entry, a paragraph praising Heather Wilson:

Ode To Heather Wilson (prose poem style...which means it isn't a poem at all, just a paragraph)

Heather Wilson voted for the Stem Cell bill and to override the President. I haven't agreed with President Bush since....well ever, so Wilson's stand against him is admirable in my book. I also think Wilson knows what she's talking about when it comes to a number of issues, and I like that in a Representative. She also has really short hair in that "I don't care if you think I'm a lesbian" sort of way, which I find defiant and cool, especially in a Republican. Lastly, she voted against some evil bill that would have required reporting illegal immigrants when they went to the hospital.

Okay, that was hard. But aren't the hard things worth doing?

Somehow I have this gut feeling that nobody is going to take me up on "Opposite Blogging", especially in the last week of the campaigns. Pity. No, it will probably just be "liberal" folks positing Heather Wilson as a closeted lesbian who votes against her "true" sexual orientation and "conservative" bloggers copy/pasting parts of my little paragraph as proof that support for Heather is crossing over to Democrats in a big way.

Sigh. I think I might take that next exit off the expressway, and head back to the farmhouse just past Mountainair. The one without the Internet.

P.S.: Everybody needs to get this new Yo La Tengo record. Really, everybody should get every Yo La Tengo record, imho, even/especially Republicans.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Two Quick Things While He's Away

  1. A thorough final analysis of "Madrid/Wilson I: This Time is the Only Time": Thank God(dess) for the World Series.
  2. My little daydream this morning has been the creation of a new third political party: the "No Bullshit Party". The daydream has gone in many directions, summed up with the slogan "The Party for people who don't want to belong to a Party". Feel free to infuse your own daydreams today with thoughts of what a "No Bullshit Party" would be in your own private mindscape.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Non-Report On The Madrid/Wilson Debate

There were several mistakes made at last night's Wilson/Madrid TV debate, but the biggest one was made by me.

For I attended the Democratic Party of NM soiree at the Carom Club. This "debate party" seemed like a good idea right up to the time I first saw the karaoke machine next to Carom's bar. I should have walked right back out, but a set of circumstances made it necessary for me to wait for others to possibly join me.

For a blissful, yet short, while the karaoke sound system wasn't working, but when repaired I tried to wolf Stone IPA on draft and play pool as "singers" belted, groaned and shrieked tunes like "I'm Too Sexy", "High Friends in Low Places", and "Purple Rain".

By the beginning of the debate at 7:00 my acquaintances still had not arrived and I was a mental wreck. All the Democratically paid for free beer and food in the world couldn't assuage the trauma of "I'm Too Sexy", and now here was Tom Joles & Carla Aragon at humorously different-heighted podiums blabbing...and we were off.

I made it for a few minutes, just past the opening statements and first questions before I had to get out of the Carom Club. Absolutely HAD to get out. Maybe it was the instant awareness, always present beneath the psychological surface, that nothing fantastic for the Madrid campaign could happen from a televised debate. Maybe it was Heather's pink power dress and boo-hoo "Patsy's being mean" answer about attack ads.

But those were things to be expected. What really made me run out of the Carom Club and to my car to listen to more of the debate was the personal heebee-jeebees engendered by the Carom Club/Democratic Party of NM milieu itself. I guess any respectable blogger would be expected to tough it out, get past the Ron Bells and John Wertheims playing pool at nearby tables, the sparseness of a crowd that didn't seem that interested in the actual debate and a bit disappointed that the karaoke contest had to be on hold until Madrid/Wilson was over.

But this blogger couldn't. Your humble Babbler had to face once again the fact that he is just too independent and snarky to spend any significant time in a room full of Political Party people, regardless of the Party involved.

And did I mention the karaoke?

So, between the time spent fleeing Carom Club and the fact that I listened to more of the debate than I watched, I don't feel like I can be much of a judge concerning the Wilson/Madrid debate last night. I'm still on the lookout on the 'Net for a copy, but don't see one yet at C-SPAN or anywhere else. If someone spots one, please let me know and I'll give the thing another chance, away from the "Purple Rain".

To be honest, I'm a bit reluctant to actually watch a 'Net version the debate. I think we all know at this point that debates probably aren't Patsy's strong suit, and Heather can lie and fluff like a house rug better than most. A YouTube or C-SPAN version of last night's debate will most probably merely validate those points.

For me, watching debates on C-SPAN is alot more fun when the race involved is far from New Mexico and features kooky people like Katherine Harris or Vernon Robinson. Madrid/Wilson is too close to home and means too much. The viewer is always ducking and weaving, trying to avoid verbal punches to areas that are already sensitive from previous pounding. And we who tend to favor Democrats (regardless of their proclivity toward karaoke-centered events) have received a lot of pounding in recent years.

Next week my Humanities classes will host a series of short debates between gracious folks who have agreed to represent Madrid and Wilson's positions. My co-teachers and I will get the 6th/7th/8th grade students in our program up to speed on the issues, and they'll ask questions to the representatives of the respective actual candidates. We'll try to make it as real and informative as possible, without going quite as negative as the campaigns themselves.

No, there won't be any karaoke, either.